Imposter syndrome. It’s a bit unpleasant because what you really need when you’re attempting a Ph.D. is belief in yourself.
Yet, you lay in bed at night wondering, how on Earth you managed to get into the program.
Could I have fooled everyone? Do I belong here? Was I a charity case? I know I had a shot, otherwise, I would have never applied in the first place. I survived the first year though, so I must have some potential. I must be doing something right. Or maybe I’m passing for now because it was only the first year and things get harder after the first year? I published a paper in a peer-reviewed journal though, that must mean something? Or maybe because I co-authored with my stellar supervisors that it got through? I work super hard though so I do deserve to be here. Wait, is hard work enough? And what is enough? When is it enough?
And so on and on it goes. I’m able to mute the chatter by keeping busy - attending webinars, reading books and journal articles, singing up to study groups, subscribing to research newsletters in my field, re-organising my desk, downloading the latest productivity app on my phone, following academics on Twitter; nearly everything except writing. All the while, time is ticking. Do I deserve to be here? Can I really be a researcher? All I need to do now is write. It’s up to me now.
N/Naka is a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles with two Michelin stars. Chef Niki Nakayama is the owner and chef. This is what she says about trusting yourself on the Netflix series, Chef’s Table:
“No more than a year after, my sous-chef quit. I was by myself. Suddenly, all the prep that I was used to dividing up was all mine. I remember going to the back and standing there, feeling like, ‘this is gonna be the most horrible night of my life’ and I started crying a little bit. And I was like, ‘it’s gonna be okay’. And then I was just like… ‘just let me get through this night without messing up’. As the night progressed, and things were moving, I was more focused than I usually am, and I got through the night, and I walked away from it knowing I could do this. No matter what happens, I could do this. At some point you need to trust yourself.”