As you’ve faced career growth — such as defending your thesis or starting a new position — have you grappled with feeling like a fraud, despite your accomplishments? What did you do to move forward?
You’re not alone. Professionals from all backgrounds and across career stages and disciplines, both inside and outside of science, experience this phenomenon, called impostor syndrome. But by talking about it and sharing actionable strategies for accepting and working through it, people can help each other recognize their own value and trust in their abilities.
“The important thing to remember is that most all of us, including the most famous neuroscientist you can think of, have experienced impostor syndrome sometime during our career,” says Wendy Suzuki, a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University.
“As scientists, we're exploring new ideas, which means you don't always know the way forward, and that is fertile ground to create impostor syndrome. Keep barreling through, because you're doing what you're supposed to — exploring new directions and asking novel questions.”
Try these strategies to prevent or work through impostor syndrome:
- Have a group of friends you feel comfortable talking with about your experiences. Join groups at your institution — graduate student organizations, postdoc organizations, and mentorships are good places to start — that make you feel supported and challenged.
- If you feel anxious and notice that you are avoiding new projects and opportunities, consider whether you are saying no to these opportunities because you’re afraid you might fail. Redirect your energy to taking the risk, knowing it will help you grow in your career.
- Practice shifting your perspective. When something goes wrong, think of it — and any associated feelings you have about it — as a part of the process of science.
Watch the video for more strategies and a deeper understanding of impostor syndrome.