Imposter syndrome is real.
Your feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, etc, are valid - but these feelings do not necessarily represent reality.
You have so many accomplishments, big and small. Everything about you has led you here.
Where is here?
Here may be anywhere from applying to graduate school to nearly finishing the degree. From graduating high school to a new promotion in your career.
Here can be transitory, or in a state of change. Here may feel stagnant, or immovable.
No matter where here is, I will repeat: “You have so many accomplishments, big and small.”
Get in the habit of writing them down.
Because knowing where you came from can help you recognize where you are going and assist in recognizing that you belong there: this is that internal motivator.
External motivators may include:
- Departmental or fellowship requirements for a progress report
- Needing a CV for an application, when even your resume hasn’t been updated in years
- Requesting a raise at a job (or within a graduate program! Many stipends are negotiable!), as mentioned in this blog by Jannese of the Yo Quiero Dinero podcast.
As many reviews occur after a year's worth of work, it can be difficult to remember all of your accomplishments - even the major ones. I almost forgot to mention I passed my qualifying exams in my NSF GRFP progress report, it happens!
It is much easier to take small notes throughout the year on accomplishments than to regurgitate all of your achievements on the spot.
What do I write?
Your accomplishments, big or small. - Do I sound like a broken record? Oh well…
You could label the document something corny like: “All I Do Is Win!” or “Avocado Toast, Hold the Avocado, Add Achievements.” The main goal is to have this document easy to find and hopefully bookmarked so you can check/update it regularly.
Inside the document, you can set it up however you like.
Add sections for the types of accomplishments (academic, professional, personal) - or don’t!
Write in bullet form or have entire paragraphs. Feel free to take this document to the point of journaling, just be sure to make sure the overarching achievement for each entry is clear.
As a graduate student, I am able to write more towards the perspective of a graduate student. With that being said, some examples you may want to include are:
- Passing qualifying exams - conditionally or full out, you did it, that is an accomplishment
- Completing classes, no matter the grade
- Holding a leadership position - in lab, your department, or university organizations
- Volunteering for an organization within your field of study, focused on the community, or that generally peaked your interest
- Learning a new skill in research (Have you created a bomb figure? Ran your first pilot study? Got an IRB protocol approved?)
- Attending a conference, especially if you have the opportunity to present there
- Providing mentorship to undergraduate researchers
I encourage you to keep this running list and view it often, especially when that feeling of imposter syndrome occurs. Being able to view your accomplishments at once and recognize how numerous and monumental they are is sure to boost your confidence and self-esteem.
Though it may feel difficult to accept at times, I want you to know that you are not an imposter.
You are meant to be here.
Hopefully, this list will help you recognize how true that statement is.
About the author: Daziyah Sullivan is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering. Originally from Florida, Daziyah earned her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering in 2020. Read more.