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Imposter Syndrome...esc?

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Hello everyone,

My first semester of grad school is coming to a close, and there is a feeling that has been slowly growing in the back of my mind. I wouldn't call it imposter syndrome, because I have no problem with the program I'm in, or feeling like I don't belong. This environment is exactly what I wanted, quick paced, cutthroat, and the difference in my knowledge between now and 4 months ago is staggering...which I love. 

However, in this atmosphere and environment, I'm coming to realize how slow I am relatively. I wouldn't say I'm dumb, but some of the people in this program are extremely smart. And I'm not discussing the difference between someone who's been here for 3 years and are an expert in their field and has more experience, I'm talking about people at my same level. I sit in class, meetings, discussion with these individuals, and feel like I'm left in the dust. They're quicker than me, in understanding, retaining, and using the knowledge they just learned. What takes me hours, takes them minutes. While I do try and keep up, put in the time and effort, they are always just ahead. 

It's similar to when you realize, Micheal Phelps just has broader shoulders, Usain Bolt just has longer legs. Like the swimmer/sprinter that always comes 3rd, but only because their competition was built with a physical advantage. It's not that they are bad swimmers/sprinters, or they don't put in the effort, simply that they don't have that innate advantage. 

I feel very similar in those regards. I don't find myself a bad scientist, or slow. Rather, these individuals are smarter than me. Simple as that. No matter what I do, I won't be able to catch up. This is of course how life works, some people are better at some things than others. And while I say I understand that this does not discredit me, or say anything about my knowledge (rather is only a compliment to the skills of the others), it still does upset me. It still does make me feel like crap, or wish I could compete at their level....it does make me feel useless at times. 


However, this post isn't me realizing this, I realized this fact weeks ago, and have come to terms that there are just people out there who are better at...well everything (science, math, physics, critical thinking in general), then I am or ever will be. What I have realized though, is that, that does not make me...useless? Having discussions with these individuals, I realize I can still come up with ideas they haven't, perspectives they have not. I find that they may be quicker and smarter, but I can still offer a different viewpoint. This post is to say, just because someone is smarter or better, does not make you useless in your field. Everyone has a unique perspective, and that unique perspective is what really matters. I have been able to solve problems these other smarter individuals haven't been able to solve, but only because I approached the problem in a different way. 

Finally, on a side note, I think it's important to not allow these insecurities to come in the way of the program and what you are doing. Yes, on a mental level, they make grad school a lot harder, maybe even unenjoyable at times for me. There have been times where I've thought to myself, what am I doing here? Compared to these guys, I'm nothing. Or times I just thought it would be so much easier if I didn't continue, if I just went back to my old life. Making good money, back with friends and family, relaxed....but I'm just having too much fun. I forget how while I may have been relaxed, I was also bored. I find it similar to dumping a guy you love and are in a great relationship with, just because you think you're not good enough for him (e.g. not attractive enough, not smart enough, etc.). Grad school can be a great experience, and a lot of fun, and having these insecurities get in the way of that, or worse make you break up something good, would definitely be a waste. 


Thought this might help anyone else feeling this way. 

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The nice thing though is that the only realm in which that's going to matter is for a class environment. The speed with which someone absorbs information doesn't have any bearing on designing experiments or writing/publishing! 

And you're definitely right that everyone brings a unique perspective :)


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