Dear fellow crazies,
Hi, everyone! I figured this week I’d start off light, talking about how much we all never struggle with stress in grad school. Just kidding, I want to talk about a serious problem with grad students that we often don’t like to admit exists. The Impostor Syndrome. The elephant in the room, and one of the most prevalent plagues of graduate students. Everyone struggles with it from time to time, and if you don’t, you probably ought to reconsider your decency as a human being.
If I’m being honest, I feel like an impostor most of the time, but there are moments when it is more intense than others. Some of my worst moments are when I first wake up in the morning and my constantly active mind is left wandering without supervision. When this happens, I take a deep breath, pause, and then write down all of my thoughts. I word vomit everything onto paper, whether it makes sense or not, just to get it out of my brain. For me, this seems to help me rationalize out my fears of never finishing my millions upon billions of lipid extractions I have left, or walking into my advisor’s office, him realizing what an idiot I am, and sending me home without further question.
Guys, listen to me carefully. YOU CAN DO THIS. As an old veterinarian I used to work for once said “People way stupider than you have made it through, so don’t you think you can’t.” Think about it, you wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t proven yourself already. The key is convincing yourself that you are good enough. One of my colleagues said to me just the other day, “You are a student, you are here to learn, and you’re not meant to know all the answers. Your job is to be able to identify and admit where your knowledge is lacking in order that you may then find the answers.” Okay, that wasn’t a direct quote, and that was my boyfriend who said that (who is also a Ph.D. student in the same department), but he’s pretty wise sometimes. On that note, we’ll talk about relationships during grad school another day.
The best advice I have for you all is to believe in yourselves, and if the need arises, confide in one of your close colleagues. I can almost promise you they’ll have had similar experiences to your own. There is an atmosphere of “pretend you know everything, even if you don’t” or “fake it ‘til you make it” among graduate students. Bull. A motto from one of my favorite Disney movies, “From failing you learn, from success, not so much” has helped me to become a significantly better graduate student. Admitting when you don’t know allows the opportunity for growth whether through teaching or self-learning.
I encourage you all to beat the impostor by believing you can, learning when to admit you don’t know, and taking the initiative to learn, because you are NOT an impostor and you DO belong here.
See you in a fortnight!
Kaylee is a Ph.D. student in the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences department.