Overcoming “Impostor Syndrome”


I was two-thirds of the way through my first semester as a PhD student when I looked back on this blog to see that I hadn’t updated since the end of week 1.  How time flies!  It has been quite a challenge.  Our professors have continuously told us how this experience is completely different from our undergraduate and graduate programs and they have not disappointed.

I’ve learned of fascinating research that some faculty are pursuing and this has helped me try to focus where I will go with my dissertation.  Who knew that public policy could cover such a broad spectrum of topics?  Yes, that’s one of the things that attracted me to the program in the first place, but I had only scratched the surface with my incoming presuppositions.

I’ve also learned of the power of “impostor syndrome”.  While not an authoritative source, Wikipedia provides a good description.  I’ve been in and out of the university classroom essentially since graduating from high school.  I cobbled together enough credits to earn a BS from Excelsior College, and found time to earn an MPA from Troy State University and an MSIM from Syracuse University all while working full-time.  In all that time, I had never been affected by “impostor syndrome” … until becoming a postgraduate student.  I can’t say that it’s been easy – it hasn’t.  I’m still working full-time, but surprisingly, it’s not the workload (either at work or at SPP) that has been challenging.  My challenge has been adjusting to a research framework approach and producing work worthy of a PhD student.

I’ve wondered frequently if I had somehow “slipped through the admissions cracks” and if I’d be “found out” as not being of PhD quality.  That is, until I found out that my classmates are experiencing similar feelings.  One evening, while commiserating about an assignment we had, we all discovered that we had the same misgivings at varying levels.  This helped calm the feelings we had been having individually and taught us a valuable lesson: work together and we’ll all get through this.  I can’t say that the “impostor syndrome” has gone away completely … it hasn’t.  But I can say that its effects have greatly diminished.

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One response to “Overcoming “Impostor Syndrome”

  1. Pingback: Finding Balance | SPP Currents

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