Do you have the idea that you are a fraud? That even though it seems that you are able to do a PhD, you still have the feeling that you are not capable of doing it at all? Or does it feel that, despite the clear opinion of your supervisors, you can’t take the next step? Or are you struck by the insecurity that you won’t be able to write your conclusion now the end of your PhD is looming?
You are not the only one.
The feeling that you are not good enough, not smart enough, not capable enough, that you are a fraud and you will be unmasked is called imposter syndrome.
Many PhD students suffer from it.
The syndrome is rearing its head at times you have to start something new, like your PhD or, for instance, conduct experiments, design lists of questions, write a systematic review, coach students. The result is a collection of feelings of chronic self-doubt and inadequacy.
By working harder, most PhD students hope to avert these feelings, they also will pay attention to small mistakes and are most of the time actually sabotaging themselves. Do you recognize this?
Luckily there are some science-based strategies that will diminish or overcome this syndrome.
Strategy 1: Stay positive
Many PhD students trivialize their successes, they are more likely to attribute their successes to pure luck, coincidence or good timing. Don’t do this but own your successes. Modesty is a virtue, but too much of it will increase your imposter syndrome.
So, from now on list all the things that went right. Make a document with two columns, one listing all the (big or small) successes and in the other column how you achieved them.
By monitoring your successes you are less likely to compare yourself to others and it will be easier to realize that you are special and that you offer something unique, you will be more resilient. By focusing on your successes you will be more inclined to look at yourself in a positive way,
Strategy 2: Celebrate your successes
Often we don’t celebrate our successes because it seems like bragging. However, celebrating your successes is a great way to combat imposter syndrome. It is great to celebrate that you have learned something new, that you achieved a great result or discovered something significant about yourself.
Share it in public, for instance on Linkedin – or with your friends, family or colleagues, by treating everyone to cake and coffee, sending an app or doing something fun for yourself.
Your brain issues dopamine once you are feeling good about something. That dopamine will help you to happily take the next step.