Imposter Syndrome

November 1, 2007

A little bait for the DM and the PP. I ran across an interesting three parter (one, two, three) from mrswhatsit on imposter syndrome in science.

Impostor syndrome, for those who don’t know, is characterized by the belief that you have somehow fooled everyone into thinking that you are smart and competent, that in fact you are neither, and one day people are going to figure out that you are a fraud. It seems to be fairly common among women academics. I first heard the term a few years ago and it described exactly how I felt on a daily basis.

I don’t know that this is all that unique to women…

As a mentor though, it poses interesting questions. We all know we’re supposed to be supportive and encouraging and all that. “Good” mentors are great at these “atta-postdoc” skills.  All true. But are we supposed to diagnose “imposter syndrome”? How is one to set up an imposter-syndrome-friendly environment?

A related question is what degree of confidence do you project as a PI and mentor? The “troops” want to be encouraged, excited and motivated by someone surging forward with great confidence, no? So we shouldn’t burden them with our own problems, like, say grant funding, right? But what about the appearance of “super-prof-ness” and the effect this has on the outside (or inside) observer? Read comments over on FSP for an illustration of “You’re so cool it makes me feel unworthy, how do you DO that?”. So in some senses the highly confident PI is not good for the imposter syndrome trainee.

PZ Myers in San Diego 11/2

November 1, 2007

The infamous PZ Myers of Pharyngula will be in San Diego tomorrow:

While I’m here in San Diego, I’ll also be giving a talk/hosting a discussion at the Scripps Institute [of Oceanography, aka SIO…Ed] on Friday at 3:00. The title is:

Sharing science: education, activism, and advocacy