Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you aren’t worthy of your accomplishments and are a fraud, that you’ve conned everyone into thinking you’re smarter/better/more competent than you are. And I think that’s a lot of the reason I haven’t posted in over 3 weeks.

I keep being paralyzed by the feeling that anything I write won’t be good enough. Because there are billions of blogs in the world. Is there really anything new I can say? And what makes me think I can say it better?

So far grad school has largely consisted of feeling like this about almost everything. Why did I get accepted to such a good program? Why would anyone want to actually pay me to do this? How am I supposed to come up with good enough ideas? How can I compete for funding with all these other people with amazing ideas and research?

And I have to keep reminding myself that I am absolutely good enough and smart enough and I work hard enough. And it’s the same for you.

Because here’s a secret: “best” doesn’t even mean anything. Especially in science. As with any fundamentally creative endeavor (because that’s really what research is), we don’t need a single best idea, we need a lot of different ideas.

And same with this blog. I don’t have to make the best post in the world. And this isn’t the first post about impostor syndrome. And it won’t be the last. And it almost certainly won’t be the one that inspires a New York Times article on the subject. But somebody might read it, and it might make them feel a little bit better. And that’s still valuable.

The same goes for research. I don’t need to have the biggest, flashiest findings and ideas (and honestly, a lot of those involve a ton of luck anyway). Because every small thing is still helpful and still gets us a little further towards understanding the world, or even just a little closer towards perfecting the technique that will allow us to make the next discovery.

This is also why diversity is soooo important in research. Because we need many different ideas from people with all kinds of world views and experiences. (Also I could talk about the importance of diversity in STEM for days, but instead of making this post a million miles long, I’ll instead promise it will be a future topic. For now, suffice it to say I believe it is one of the most critical aspects of good research and one of the most important factors for the future of science).

So go forth knowing that your ideas are good ideas!

Also I got a twitter! Be warned, I am new to twitter and don’t entirely understand it yet. But you can follow me @sarahrscience (note the r). The account is primarily to support this blog. So that’s where I’ll post small thoughts in between writing longer posts. As always, feel free to contact me there or here for questions and/or comments! Even if I’m not the best at regular updates, I’m pretty good at replying!