Impostor Syndrome

5 Dec

First off, I passed my written exams!

**cue celebratory dance**

Yayy!! When I got the mail from my chair that I passed, I let out a HUGE sigh of relief. The exams themselves were mentally and emotionally painful–I didn’t read enough, nor give myself enough time to think things out. So when I actually sat down to write, some words flew easily. . while others…not so much. I had a huge case of writer’s block on the third exam question and ended up frantically writing something the morning it was due. Not my proudest moment.

But I passed! And with great comments like “well written, lucid, and thoughtful” or “solid job” “strong summary” “engage deeply”….and so on. I honestly was telling hubs after I finished that for question one I critically analyzed some issues, question two I felt I answered worse than an undergrad. . and question three, I still don’t know what I wrote. So I was surprised to hear these responses.

Today I was talking with the English grad program coordinator and she labeled this “impostor syndrome”–that nagging feeling that you’ve been skating by all this time and that one day you’re going to be found out. She said grad students and faculty feel this way all the time. This is exactly how to name what I’ve been feeling. I know that I’m smart and capable. But this exam was SO tough–my goal is to impress the professors I work with so that they really will picture me as a future colleague. As I try to professionalize myself, there’s a lot of intellectual heavy-lifting I have to do and it’s hard with a baby, husband, side-business, and so many other things that pull at my time and intellectual energy. I’m torn in so many directions that I feel like I half-ass things half the time (and the other half doesn’t get done these days…).

So I felt like that lack of effort (not for lack of trying) would be ‘found out’ this time. But it seems I passed with flying colors. Maybe everyone else is under similar pressure?

Next Monday is the oral component, so I plan to coordinate my commitee’s written feedback and group it into categories and plan ‘talking points’ that I can use during the meeting. It sounds like it will be a pretty fun 2 hours to have three people I really respect in the same room to talk about the academic work I want to do. The better I prepare the more I can get out of it. And once it’s done….. I’ll be a PhC! Hooray!


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