Eventually somebody will notice… Impostor Syndrome

This sounds all too familiar… 

“[…]that feeling that you don’t belong, that you are only where you are through some clerical or other error and that one day, probably soon, you will be FOUND OUT. In other words, you are an impostor and the unmasking – with its consequent inevitable embarrassments and humiliation – is just around the corner.”

Theoretically I could be proud of what I achieved in these first 9 months of my PhD program. I got two conference papers and even one journal publication accepted. The grades of my first semester are excellent. I co-organized the Mobile Business Forum and it was a great success. I did so many projects and I did them really well.

But it’s hard for myself to believe that. To get that into my head and feel happy about this success. To be proud and to build on these achievements. Because I feel that I do not deserve them.

That’s rubbish. Actually I talked to several PhD students that I know well and guess what – they all tell the same thing. So it helped me to learn that this is actually a known phenomenon – the “impostor syndrome” and that others (e.g. here and here) experience it as well. Apparently women are more likely to have the impostor syndrome, but in my experience it applies to men as well. And I remember even in Viswanath Venkatesh´s book “Road to Success” that my supervisor recommended me when I started out in my Ph.D program, one of the authors – a recently graduated Ph.D student – mentioned that she often felt like a fraud and it was only a matter of time until eventually somebody noticed.

Probably the solution is not too hard, one step is to recognize that this “condition” is normal and pretty much everybody feels like this every now and then. Then it might be easier to look at things objectively. Probably the University of St.Gallen is a place that tends to make people feel this way – there are so many smart people here, but also a lot of people that show off. Not always, but sometimes, I push myself to embrace this fact and enjoy “being the dumbest person in the room” (like that CEO tries to be). That means that there is so much for you to learn yet, and you have the exciting opportunity to be in the exact right place for that.

Sacha Chua also compiled some tips on flickr on how to deal with the impostor syndrom:

https://flic.kr/p/j3CKvT by Sacha Chua, licensed under CC By 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/j3CKvT by Sacha Chua, licensed under CC By 2.0


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