Archive for the ‘impostor syndrome’ Category

Poor Performance

The other day I really disappointed myself. I had scheduled a meeting with a particular person so I could pick their brain about something I am interested in at a personal level. They, understandably, assumed I wanted to talk to them for professional reasons. Unfortunately, when they asked me what I was hoping to get from them, I baulked, and started talking about potential collaborations and common interests between our programs. 
I’m not sure why I did that. I guess it’s easier to make gains for a larger group than for just myself. I seem to have a much harder time asking for help/information/etc. for me rather than on a professional level. 
I did get some good information out of the meeting – but I didn’t at all achieve what I wanted.
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4-Day Work Week

When I was negotiating my contract with my PI, I asked to work four days a week. That way, I could use my day off to work on other things — such as the education & outreach program I’m trying to develop for a nearby observatory, catching up on my reading and/or knitting, working out, or doing chores.

It was all nice at first, but now I’m finding it strangely stressful. I almost feel like four days a week isn’t enough time to be as productive as I’d like to be. I end up feeling guilty for not working on my day off, because I should be getting more things done.

I’m sure it doesn’t help that my progress is pretty slow because of the high learning curve. All I did the first 3-4 weeks was read, and there is still so much that I want to learn, but I wanted to move on to…you know…actually doing stuff.

I also feel like I should be performing at a higher level because I’m a post-doc now, and I should just know how to do shit. I know that I’ve changed research areas, and my PI is very understanding of that, but I don’t want to disappoint her either.

Another issue is that I seem to have about a million and one other things I’m working on. I’m heading up the steering committee for the education & outreach program, and I’m on another steering committee for a new education conference. I also want to finish up the work I was doing in my other post-doc, and write up a paper on that. Then, I’m a member of the post-doctoral association executive council. Oh, and then there’s the whole we-just-bought-a-house and trying-for-a-baby things, plus trying to keep up my hobbies of reading and knitting…and trying to get to the gym too…oh, and keeping up with my two blogs…

It’s nice to be busy in a way, but I’m finding I can’t concentrate on what I’m doing because I’m thinking about everything else I need to be doing. I know I’ve juggled stuff like this in the past, so I’ve started to make more specific goals each day so that I can focus more. It’s been helpful, but I still feel like I’m all over the place sometimes.

Sigh – does life ever calm down?

Great Impostor Syndrome Post

Head over to Steve Schwartz’s blog to read a fantastic post about how none of us know what the hell we’re doing.

I will be giving a keynote talk on the Impostor Syndrome to about 125 graduate students next Saturday (the 27th). Yes, I am freaking out about how little I know about the topic, and yes, I realize how ironic that is.

PS: For those of you waiting for the next installment of the worry series, it will probably be a while. I will summarize all seven steps into one post and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to read it all. I promise it will come though!

Last Week of Freedom

It’s just one more week until I start my new post-doc, and I’m a bit nervous about the new position.

I’m not really familiar with the research area, so it will be a steep learning curve. I hope that I am smart and capable enough to hold my own, and don’t end up looking like a complete idiot. I also worry that I might end up hating this too, just like my PhD research.

I’m also nervous about working for a new PI and with new grad students & post-docs. My PhD experience in that regard was not a particularly good one, so I am hoping it will be better in this case.

Another thing I’m worried about is keeping up my exercise routine. I’ve been working out four times a week, and I really love it now. I would be very disappointed in myself if I let it slip. It will be harder to schedule it in, obviously, since I will only be able to do so in the evenings. But, I really need to do this for myself, because I feel so much better lately.

The good thing is I’ll only be working four days a week. So that means I can hit the gym, catch up on my reading or knitting, or work on outreach stuff on my day off.

But, for now I should stop thinking about all of this and try to enjoy my last week off!

You Want Me to Do What?

I’ve been asked to give the keynote address at a local research conference!!

The conference is for all graduate students at my university. It’s a one-day thing, where students from all disciplines share their research in either a talk or a poster. They always have a keynote speaker at the end of the conference, just before dinner.

A couple months ago, I received an email from one of the organizers, saying that he’d like to nominate me to give my talk about the Impostor Syndrome (I put together a workshop on this last summer, and gave it to the physics department in the Fall). Apparently, someone at the Teaching Support Centre (where I took the course which I created the workshop in), recommended me.

I told the guy I was interested, but didn’t think anything much about it. Then, today, I get an email from the committee saying they have chosen my talk to be the keynote address!!

I don’t know how many people will be there – maybe 100 or so? I’m so excited, and a bit nervous too! I mean last year, they had Jorge Cham (of PhD Comics fame)!! How am I going to live up to that?? (oh, hello impostor syndrome….old friend)

It’s definitely a great opportunity though, and I’m sure it will open a lot of doors for me around the university. YAY!!!

Like Day and Night

I apologize if the following isn’t as succinct as it could be. I am learning how to write in case people I know read my blog, instead of writing so that people don’t figure out it’s my blog. A whole different ballgame!

I had meetings with two people over the last two days. Both were to discuss a similar topic, but boy, were these meetings like day and night!

During one meeting, I felt that my ideas were no good, not relevant, and that I could not come up with a project without help from someone more senior than me (even if I know more about the subject at hand). The most frustrating part was being told that my idea was “okay”, but if I did what they wanted me to, it would be much better and more well-received. Plus, if I did the latter, I would have a better chance of getting funding* (because it would greatly benefit certain units at the university – not because it would be a “better” idea).

During the second meeting, I felt nothing but support, that I can be an independent researcher, and that my ideas are worthwhile. The most wonderful part was being told that it’s far more important to do something I love and that I’m passionate about, than to do something someone (higher up) wants me too, and that my ideas are relevant to many other people.

After I finished my PhD, I told myself that now is the time to find what I really want to do with my life. What am I passionate about? What excites me? What would get me out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face? There are a few things (which I’ll discuss in another post), and one of them is a new (non-astronomy research) project I’ve started to work on.

I finally started doing something I love, and I’m happier than I have been in months…maybe even years. I really don’t think I’m going to let someone dissuade me from continuing forward with it because they have ulterior motives, even if it means I can’t get funding from them!

Some big changes are coming, and hopefully soon. I’ll be able to pursue my interests with no time constraints and, best of all, no guilt and no one telling me what I should be doing.

*I don’t mean that I won’t be able to get any funding if I work on the project that I want – just that it would be harder to get funding from a particular unit at the university.

Impostor Syndrome Talk

I gave my talk about the Impostor Syndrome this week to the physics department! It was really exciting and fun to present something other than my astronomy research, and I think it went pretty well.

I ran it as a pseudo-workshop: about 2/3’s of it was a lecture format, but I also put in time for discussions and brainstorming. People were also encouraged to ask questions or make comments throughout. At first, the group was a bit hesitant about participating – after all, they are used to talks where they come in and listen for 45 minutes, then leave. But, after the first couple of surveys I did (put-up-your-hand-if kind of things), everyone seemed to get more into it.

There were some really good ideas floating around, but we were really strapped for time, so we didn’t get to develop them too much. I did mention ahead of time that it will probably go for more than the allotted time; talks usually run for 45 minutes…this one went for an hour and 15 minutes (and only 4 people left before it was done!), and could have kept going.

I definitely need to change and clarify some things before I gave the talk again. I would also run it as a 1.5-2 hour seminar next time, so that we have more time to focus on certain ideas instead of feeling rushed.

I got a lot of compliments about the talk, and a couple graduate students even thanked me for bringing the topic to light (only a handful of people had heard of it before!). I hope that everyone went away with some ideas, or at least an awareness of the Impostor Syndrome and what situations perpetuate it.

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