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'How to survive your PhD' - Impostor Syndrome

I've currently working through the free 'How to survive your PhD' course being run by Doctor Inger Mewburn (thesiswhisperer) and colleagues via ANU.
Pug Imposter 'Pug Love'
Pug Imposter 'Pug Love' by DaPuglet
Last week the topic of the live chat centered around confidence and impostor syndrome.

Here's some tips I picked up from the live chat:

  • How do you know if you're suffering from impostor syndrome or just being self-critical? = When the self critiquing becomes debilitating.
  • It's useful to be critical of your own practices and do some self-reflection, but not to the point that it paralyses you or you lose sight of what you're trying to achieve.
  • Dealing with a PhD thesis can be like dealing with an unruly child! Parents often feel impostor syndrome too.
  • Build your confidence by identifying what’s good about your work.
  • You're not the only one feeling this way - it’s not unusual to struggle with a PhD
  • All academics struggle at one time or another and no-one is perfect. 
  • There is no perfect research journey.
  • You may feel it is difficult to disagree with supervisor, or that you're too inexperienced to question them, but research is a learning curve for students and supervisors, you can learn together
  • Impostor syndrome does not relate to age – all students can feel it – those that feel too young, too old, too inexperienced, that they've been out of academia for too long etc.
  • Your supervisor's opinion is not the be all and end all – widen your support network to include other academics in your field and seek other opinions on your work as well.
  • Studies show that working/studying too much gives diminishing returns – need to make sure you have a good work-life balance
  • Top tip for impostor syndrome – "Learning to Work" [PDF] by Virginia Valian – includes advice such as write for short periods and for the pleasure of it.
  • A lot of the talk was about under-confidence but people in academia can also become over-confident and start showing academic arrogance or even become academic a**holes.
  • You need to learn to trust yourself as a scholar.
  • Impostor syndrome is a form of "performance anxiety".
  • You aren’t an impostor if you're doing a PhD - you’ve got all the qualifications and got through the application process to get there in the first place!
  • My work isn’t PhD standard… very common thought/experience – remember you will get to the point when you know more about your topic than your supervisor does!


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