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Impostor syndrome setting in

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So, the start of my first semester of my PHD program is looming.  Schedules are made, orientations are done, and courses are assigned, and I...


Feel like a complete and bloody mess.


For real, I feel like even the new teachers have their shit more together than I do (even with 2 years of teaching experience), everybody is spouting Latin or Old English at each other, and they have awesome lesson plans, and speak with knowing pride about being able to work for hours and hours, having more trouble *stopping* working than starting.  And I don't think this is idle boasting.  I know it's common to feel like you don't belong in grad school, but every passing day makes me more and more certain that most people who think that are just self-deprecating geniuses, and I am here only because I can BS my way along.  Only I feel like I'm about to stand up and the BS isn't going to protect me anymore.


I guess I'm just curious if anyone else is having the same anxieties...because misery loves company and I kinda just want to pack up my shit and go hide somewhere.  Or at least throw up.


(First non-appointment-packed few days ahead, so I'm sitting around with just my brain and my cats for company.  And when it's 100 degrees I don't feel like doing any solo exploring on the bus for distraction).

Edited by Katia_chan
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May I ask why you think/feel you're less qualified than the rest of your cohort?


I'm in quite a different situation than you, since I'm still in undergrad and just now applying to graduate programs, but as a non-traditional student at a top R1 university, I've had some pretty meaningful conversations about impostor syndrome with my mentors and professors. Based on those conversations, I'm going to guess that you're underestimating your own genius-ness.


It's hard to get into grad school - if it wasn't, we wouldn't be standing around this forum, right? And since adcomms are specifically designed to see through BS, I suspect that means you've got something better. Maybe it isn't Latin, or a terrifyingly steely work ethic; maybe it's a fabulous research proposal, or a killer prose style, or a really warm pedagogical demeanor. But it's enough that they chose to invest in you! We're expensive little creatures, grad students. They wouldn't have picked you if you didn't have the potential to be worth it.

Edited by hreaðemus
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I think hreaðemus' post is quite wonderful, and even though I too am still an undergrad (albeit a non-traditional one as well, being in my mid-30s) at a good school, I can't help but think that the supposition is correct: you were chosen! You can doubt yourself all you want, and feel like a mistake was made, but in all likelihood, it wasn't. Remember that adcomms look for potential just as much as they look for past scholarship. This just makes sense. Why would they want someone who is already established and set in his/her development? It's great -- essentially, really -- to have a solid foundation in your field of interest, which was probably established with your WS, but your SOP likely pointed to future development, whether it was by talking about mutual interests with a POI, or some other indicator of room for academic growth.


I have a feeling that by the end of your first year of graduate school, you will feel as confident as the other people you mentioned. What's going to happen is that you'll start off being meek and unsure of yourself, only to say something at some point that will prove very interesting to someone...which will lead to a conversation about a topic that you're more familiar with than the other person. And this will build confidence, and you'll start to see something very important: that knowledge isn't linear. You'll come to realize that for all of the things those seemingly advanced students know, they'll have gaps that you don't have, and as the famous line from Rocky goes: "She's got gaps, I got gaps. Together we fill gaps."


In other words, it's natural to feel overwhelmed and unworthy when you're new to pretty much anything, let alone an academic field. But it will pass. Like hreaðemus (a.k.a. "the Bat") says: they wouldn't have picked you if you didn't have the potential to be worth it.


I'd give the Bat even more upvotes if I could -- just such a great and resonant post.

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I guess I'm just curious if anyone else is having the same anxieties...because misery loves company and I kinda just want to pack up my shit and go hide somewhere.  Or at least throw up.


I'm only here because I can BS my way along. My colleagues are way smarter than me. But I just started a prestigious two-year postdoc, so I've come to trust that I am a good bullshitter and that that can get you ahead in the field. (If you can't beat them, join them.)

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Another BSer here. Or at least I feel like it. I had a mini anxiety attack at work this morning as I was thinking about the very real possibility that my advisor/potential recommender might turn down my request for a LOR because I got a B in his class last semester. That escalated  quickly into thoughts of self-doubt all around.


I think the part that gets me feeling like an impostor is that in my program (like most grad programs, from what I understand), we only get As or Bs. I feel as though the professors are more likely to be more lenient with grading because of this. Often when I don't feel as though I produce A work, I get A grades anyway.


Another thing to consider is that its possible that school just comes easy for some of us. I know that at least for myself I have always had a high GPA, from kindergarten through my undergrad, and I don't really need to study. I have noticed some of my peers putting in twice the work and getting the same results as me. I don't say that at all to brag, but more to point out that it just comes easier for some of us and because I feel like I'm doing less work, I feel like a fake. But all it takes is a professor to say, "I hadn't thought about that," or "That's a good point" to get my confidence back up. It comes and goes but you are not alone!

Edited by jhefflol
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