The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.


So I thought I should provide a little update on the school front (in case anybody is interested in that little aspect of my life :-P).

Here’s me in a nutshell:


Did you catch all that?

My comprehensive exam (and the proposal upon which it is based) is happening as early as mid-May.  Mid MAY.  I am freaking out.  I am plagued with near-nightly school-related nightmares that reinforce my firmly-held beliefs that:  a) I am not prepared; b) I will never be adequately prepared, and;  c) everyone knows that I suck.

Now, there is a slight chance that none of this is actually true.  Yesterday, my advisor said “I’m pretty sure that, if you had to do your exam today, you would pass”.  I argued and rebutted and tried to convince him what a lousy student/scientist I was, but he held firm to his assertion.   “You’re your own worst enemy”, he said.

He’s probably right.  I recently learned that there is a name, nay, a SYNDROME that describes my crippling and self-defeating thoughts: impostor syndrome.  Have you heard of this?  It’s when perfectly competent professionals (often scientists and oftener grad students) think that they have achieved success completely by accident; that they’ve somehow cheated the system, have no right to their current jobs, and will be found out for the phoneys they are at any moment.  Oh, and that everybody else in their office/lab/department/faculty is smarter and better than they are.

I am soooooo impostor syndrome-ing, it’s not even funny.  I know I have to get over it, and that I CAN do this (and that I’m good enough and smart enough and gosh-darn it people like me and all that).  But…gah.  It’s an old habit.

The rest of that bolded rant up there consists of:

1. I am working on a book chapter.  It is due in June. This is exciting and the subject is quite fun, but I don’t want to screw it up (impostor, I say!!!), so I’m a little stressed about it.

2. I am stuck in a ridiculously useless and frustrating “statistics” course, which is sucking up tremendous amounts of my time and emotional energy.  I was hoping that it would help me brush up on some stats for my comps, but it is not. I’m not actually sure if it’s really a stats course, or if it’s a programming course thinly veiled as a stats course (we’re using the R programming language).  Either way, I’m not learning much about stats OR programming.  My anger-o-meter is reading at a 10/10 over this.  Gah.

You may have noticed that teaching isn’t on my list of AAAAOMG.  I completed my teaching duties just before reading week.  It. was. so. GOOD.  It took up a ton of time and was loads of work, but it was worth it.  I felt good about it (heck, it was a riot!), I got tons of excellent, positive feedback, and my students were happy.  The teaching was a big ol’ WIN.  (Interestingly, I am not plagued with self-doubt about my teaching abilities.  I wonder why that is?)

On another positive note, I FINALLY have time to get some serious lab work (i.e., sample identification and documentation) done.  I am sooooo happy to have gagillions of nicely sorted and labelled vials of beetles and other goodies to play with.  They’ll keep me busy for a while.

Anyways, that’s what I’m up to.  As much as I’m stressed, I am still in love with this path I’ve chosen for myself and can’t wait for this phase to pass so I can move on to the next one.

16 responses to “Impostor?

  1. K Duffy! March 5, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Silly girl! Stop this insanity!

    You are an AWESOME teacher. Even if you do say mean things to me that make me cry. You know your shit super well!

    As for stats, just stop trying. I stopped long ago, and it’s been great. I’m working on my project, and getting other R people to help me code. There is no exam in this class, so who cares….. (says the undergrad). And I will just have the teacher explain how to analyze my data once I submit my draft. Cause I’m still at the level of “what’s a t test???”.

    So stop being your own worst enemy. You are smart and savvy and will pass your comps. You will look back and laugh at this moment. For now just breathe, prioritize and break up your time on various things if it helps.

    • TGIQ March 5, 2011 at 7:38 PM

      Wow. How super-nice of you to say, K! (and how utterly uncharacteristic! 😛 j/k – see how I did that? Did I make you cry? Ha!) Seriously though, thanks for the vote of confidence; I appreciate it (and may even come to you poker night! Ahhh, who’m I kidding, I’m too domesticated for poker nights XD).

  2. dragonflywoman March 5, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    I’ve heard from profs and other people who have taken their comps that your exams will make you feel more stupid than you ever will again in your entire life. That was certainly my experience! However, I also hear from these same people that they knew more when they took their exams than at any other point in their lives. Of course, no one told me this until AFTER my exams were over, so I slogged my way through thinking I was a total moron the whole time. I think everyone tries to scare you so that you study enough to reach that same state of information nirvana that they achieved – and so you don’t have it any easier than they did. 🙂

    The experience is a torturous one, but you live through it and are SO thankful when it’s over. I’m sure you’ll be fine! People who love the subject as much as you do, who are as sure that this is what they want to do as you are, just don’t fail. The only two people I knew who failed their comps are no longer biologists and had strong doubts about the path they’d taken before they took their exams. I can’t imagine that you could possibly fall into this category. Good luck!

    • TGIQ March 5, 2011 at 8:33 PM

      Thanks, DFW. I KNOW it’s an awful experience for EVERYbody, and that everyone stresses about it. I’m trying to find some solace in that. One guy in my lab failed his first attempt but is now a post-doc and doing just fine, so I know it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it happened to me. I think it’s because I was out of the “loop” for five years that I feel like surely I MUST not be up to snuff? Thanks for the positive spin on things, though 🙂

  3. Warren March 5, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    jesus christ – i’m glad i’m not in academia. work my ass off only to be ridiculed during exams, challenged on everything i publish, and underpaid for the next 40 years (i mean it would be 40 years if i wasn’t already an old man). sure, i get to nail hot undergrads, but i can do that now 🙂

    ummm i mean you will do great, we have total faith in you, i can’t imagine you doing anything else 😀

    • TGIQ March 5, 2011 at 8:36 PM

      How to respond, how to respond.
      a) you’re right, it’s not easy
      b) perv
      c) liar, but good try
      I think that about sums it up.

  4. Warren March 5, 2011 at 9:05 PM

    well …

    – i’m smart, but you’re smarter than me (i think we established that), so you can do anything you want
    – i also did something non-productive for five years, but now (after years of pain), the hard work is paying off. yours will too
    – you have a tremendous ability to bond with people and make them like you, combined with an incredible passion for your work, which might make you the greatest prof EVAR
    – you have wonderful people in your life who love and support you (yes, we can count pets as people (nuts inverting to vagina as i speak))
    – you’re cooler than an august night in kugluktuk
    – and you’re really, really, ridiculously good looking

    all true (so help me god). does that help? 😀

  5. Morgan Jackson March 6, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Impostor syndrome eh? Glad it’s not just me! I can remember asking the senior grad students in my lab when I started about the feeling of inadequacy and each one of them telling me they felt the same way. Not a great feeling to live with day in and day out, but I suppose it goes to show I’m in the right field if I care that much!

    • TGIQ March 6, 2011 at 2:52 PM

      That’s the “funniest” part about impostor syndrome: pretty much everyone has it (in academia anyways). In other words, everybody thinks that YOU’RE the smart one and they feel insecure around YOU. Sigh. We academics are nut jobs 😛

  6. Steve Willson March 10, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Hi, TGIQ. I’ve been reading your posts for almost 2 years and haven’t noticed anything that would lead me to believe you were in any way inadequate. In fact, you seem to be one of those brilliant overachievers who always seem so happy and successful in their endeavors.

    Long ago, I stopped divulging my true goals and began acting as though I was confidently in control of every situation. Then I could just blunder along in my own way and take credit for any positive results of my actions.

    • TGIQ March 10, 2011 at 6:27 PM

      LOL, Steve! An excellent approach! 😛 Think my proposal will write itself if I try that? Seems like it would be a lot less stressful, at any rate.
      (p.s. thanks for the encouragement!)

  7. Pingback: Wrong for science? « The Bug Geek

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