Microblog Mondays: Care Less

I am giving a seminar paper this week at my new department. I (foolishly) volunteered to give a paper earlier in the fall, back when I felt guilty about spending so little time there as their new postdoc.

At the time it seemed like a great idea, although it’s felt like a progressively less great idea the more time I’ve spent writing the paper; it felt like a downright terrible idea this morning when I managed to crash Word while trying to figure out how to insert accents: I not only failed to learn how to type the accents I needed but I also lost two good paragraphs (which could not be retrieved even after much Googling of where the Autosave document ought to have been).

I was happily writing my paper last Friday when a horrifying thought occurred to me: I don’t know most of the people in this new department. At my home university I’m a known entity; I give good papers which emerge from good ideas. At the new place my supervisor knows I’m a decent scholar, but I’m a stranger to pretty much everyone else, including the Chair.

For a moment I found myself paralyzed by the thought that I might make an ass out of myself. It was imposter syndrome (something which I have struggled with for my entire academic career: see here, here, oh and here too) rearing its ugly head. I allowed the usual thought process – I might say the wrong thing! They might ask me about my translations! I’ll be exposed as a fraud who knows nothing! I’ll embarrass my home department, my supervisor, and Q.! – to wash over me.

And then I quashed the negative thoughts.

I am giving a paper about a project I’ve been working on for several months (and have been thinking about for a couple of years).

I will know more about my subject than anyone else in the room.

I will be fine.

And (and this was the most freeing thought of all, largely because I’ve never managed to think it and believe it before) even if I make an ass of myself and they think I’m an idiot, I don’t really care. My future in the profession (if there is a future for me in academia) does not depend on their good opinions of my work.

It was amazing how much better I felt after that.

Are you plagued by imposter syndrome too? What do you do to counteract it?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.


Filed under Anxiety Overload, Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays

5 responses to “Microblog Mondays: Care Less

  1. Pingback: Strength in Numbers? | Res Cogitatae

  2. Yep. All the time. It’s gone down a bit in my postdoc but still rears its head regularly. To counteract it.. hmm, I don’t really have a tried and tested strategy. These days, I think IF stuff helps – my brain is too wrapped up in that to deal with whatever in work. Mostly I just power through.

  3. You will be fine. In fact, given your preparation, I’m betting you’ll be way more than fine!

    As a fellow PhD, I try to remind myself that the research suggests that men don’t feel this same way – they just “go for it” without this level of self-doubt. And they’re often very successful as no one questions it! So I figure if a guy can do it, then I can do it, and off I go!

  4. OMG, I think I could win an Olympic Medal in the Imposter Syndrome sport! (I’m going through that at the moment). Wouldn’t it be amazing to be one of those people who doesn’t suffer from it? When I was a new company Chair of the Board, I had to learn to put it aside. I wasn’t successful, but I got a bit better at it!

    I’m always trying to follow that quote about worrying about things being a waste of time, and to challenge the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough. So I was very pleased to read the end of your post – that you quashed the negative thoughts, and that yes, you will be fine. Good luck, and brava!

  5. Imposter, yep, that’s me. :p

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