Impostor Phenomenon Part 2

How to Manage Impostor Phenomenon Feelings in Grad School

by Paul Delgado, Graduate Program Assistant

In a previous post, we defined impostor phenomenon (IP) and provided a couple tips. Part 2 continues below.

Why do people experience impostor phenomenon?

There’s not really an answer. However, we know that it can happen to anyone at any point during their career. From newly arrived graduate students to professionals close to retirement (yes, we’re not kidding). It has been shown that high-achieving people often suffer from these feelings, especially women and academics. In addition, studies have examined the detrimental impact on ethnic minority scholars resulting in feelings of not belonging and diminished mental health.

IP is also seems to occur regardless of profession. Here are two takes on IP: one from artist, Gemma Correll and another from a professional in the tech industry. If you can relate, check out the tips below!

Graduate Student Tips

1. Remember what you do well and what you bring to the table.

You’re at Hopkins and you know there are brilliant people sitting next to you. Although you may not be an expert in their area of study, you know your research very well. That is normal. We all have areas where we’re pretty good and some other areas where we’re not the best. Maybe they have been conducting research for a longer time than you have. Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that your experiences are valuable and what you’re doing is important.

Write down the things you’re good at and the areas where you’d like to see some improvement. In the end, you will see how you have a longer list on the things you do well.

If you want to stay informed on the latest research on public health, attend seminars outside of your department. That’s one of the best and easiest ways to become familiar with areas other than your own.

2. Reframe your thoughts.

You don’t have to be 100%, 100% of the time. Find your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Whenever the impostor kicks in, consider the context and look at your weaknesses under a different lens.

If you’re in class feeling lost during lecture, reframe it: “the fact that I’m feeling ignorant right now, doesn’t mean that I really am. I will prepare and do good in my exam”.

Learn to value constructive criticism and be realistic about the nature of academic work. Not because your publication got rejected means that you have failed and your impostor mask has come off.

Last,

3. Be kind to yourself.

Graduate school can be tough. In difficult moments, remember to be kind to yourself. Take the time to be real with yourself and the people around you. Most people experience moments of doubt, and that’s normal. You don’t have to be perfect to succeed, you are human and will make mistakes. 

Remember you are here for a reason. You were chosen for a reason. You are better than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for. You belong here. Remember that.

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