How to Deal with Ph.D. Imposter Syndrome
Did you ever feel like you were a fraud as a Ph.D. candidate? Regardless of what people tell you, the imposter syndrome is real. It is a common problem that many high-achieving individuals face.
Imposter syndrome leads people to doubt their excellence. It makes them (erroneously) imagine that all their past achievements have only been a mistake and that they had just been lucky the whole time.
Most aspiring Ph.D. candidates go through this emotion at some point in their post-graduate journey. It demotivates them and stops them from making progress. In this article, we will discuss how to deal with Ph.D. imposter syndrome.
Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Contribute to Ph.D. Imposter Syndrome?
A doctoral program is exceptionally difficult to navigate. Furthermore, if you are coping with feelings of imposter syndrome, it becomes even harder. Some candidates consistently battle with the feeling that they do not deserve to be junior researchers. They think that eventually someone will uncover their deception and they will lose their chance.
Imposter syndrome is incredibly draining emotionally. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a greater sense of anxiety among doctoral students.
Before the pandemic, aspiring Ph.D. candidates had exclusive access to a supportive community of driven researchers. This support group offered students advice and acted as a center of scholarly productivity.
Since the onset of COVID-19, researchers have been denied access to labs and academic spaces, thus contributing to the negative feelings of imposter syndrome.
3 Techniques to Counter Ph.D. Imposter Syndrome
Keeping an optimal level of productivity at home is challenging. As researchers try to stave off distractions at home, they often fall prey to feelings of exhaustion and isolation. With that said, you can leverage the three techniques below to deal with Ph.D. imposter syndrome:
Transform Your Inner Critic into a Force of Positivity
It is hard to silence the internal critical voice that tries to pry your peace away. Whatever you do, it comes back to haunt you, telling you how you are not worthy enough. Instead of pushing down those unpleasant feelings, try an objective approach.
Spend a few hours to critically assess your greatest weaknesses and strengths. Seek areas where you can improve in the short term. For instance, if you feel your lack of expertise on a particular subject makes you unworthy, spend more time learning about it.
If you are stuck at home due to social restrictions, spend the time you save from your daily commute to enroll in an online professional development course. Choose a course that addresses your weaknesses.
Progress on that front can help you effectively combat imposter syndrome. Attending courses diligently will bring you relief and allow you to conduct your research with confidence.
Just remember to keep track of your progress, highlight your success, and celebrate every milestone you achieve. All these activities give you confidence and boost your academic profile, allowing you to overcome feelings of self-doubt.
Becoming detached from an interactive research environment is one of the major causes of anxiety among researchers. Some students may fear that they won’t be able to keep up with the demands of a lab environment.
They are afraid of becoming overwhelmed by a frenzy of experiments and analysis. Instead of viewing their doctoral program as an ongoing journey of exploration, they may feel pressured to rush things, leading to greater errors and worsening the anxiety of impostor syndrome.
To deal with this, research students can try to reframe the problem. With the help of reflective writing, they can visualize how to conduct experiments successfully once they are back in the lab. Approaching negative feelings from a different angle can help you establish control over research.
Try to spend a few minutes daily writing about potential research problems. Think about how you feel about the problem and how you will approach it. Write down workable solutions for those problems and imagine yourself executing your solutions successfully.
Now, try creating a concrete action plan to back your proposed solutions. For instance, consider how you will resume lab work with study participants once social restrictions loosen. While planning to go back to the lab environment, make a contingency plan to work under lockdown if restrictions are imposed again.
Simply put: Dream. Visualize. Execute. This simple exercise can reinforce your confidence and reduce feelings of self-doubt.
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect All the Time
Perfectionism is an excellent quality. It drives you to do your best. It motivates you to set ambitious goals regularly, regardless of how uncertain things may seem. With that said, it is not necessarily a healthy habit in the long run.
Perfectionism can easily drive you towards exhaustion. It can make you doubt your capabilities and question your achievements. Unsurprisingly, it creates the perfect ground for imposter syndrome to resurface.
Keep things easy, and do not overburden yourself with feelings of perfectionism. It is a tough habit to let go of but overthinking your efforts can hamper your progress instead of enabling you to do better.
Hopefully, our simple guide on dealing with Ph.D. imposter syndrome can help you efficiently publish research and discover new insights for the academic community worldwide. If you need help improving your research work pre-publication, please consider our academic editing service.