So I went to my first conference abroad – Stage the Future 2 (the first organised by Chris Callow Jr. and myself in London in 2014), and it was truly a memorable experience. It stood out particularly for me since it was set this year in Arizona – where I’ve been in different stages of my life – and now my present(ish) stage had met them and joined in this assemblage. I would never have imagined myself giving a talk at the University here years ago – and I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity.
Whilst I’ll be writing up more of a travel tour guide, there’s something I wanted to discuss about a specific phenomenon and how I’m slowly changing in regards to it. Like jetlag, some people get it and some don’t at all. Most likely it’s on a spectrum of intensities, like plenty of things.
Strangely enough, I was struck with the thought this morning (still adjusting to the jetlag of 7 hours difference) of imposter syndrome. I shouldn’t be here, I don’t know enough, etc. etc.
Yes, I’ve had an enormous academic chip on my shoulder for quite some time. Since this is my PhD/writing blog, it made sense to me to write these feelings down and see how I’ve changed in my ever-increasing years as a postgrad.
It’s not uncommon, I presume. However, I was told in my high school years that University was a realm way outside of my league – an elusive palace for the elite, and I was not academic enough to attend. Not in those words exactly, but the gist can be found in there.
However, I did ignore them and studied English with Creative Writing, which had been (and still is, of course) the greatest passion of mine since I was 6. Even though later on I would take to reading science textbooks and programming manuals amongst my story books a few years later, creative writing was always my first love.
When I started my PhD, however, my rashes of inadequacy flared up again.
The title, for one, can be intimidating. To claim your original argument in no doubt an extensively large body of work is not one to be sniffed at. We can claim to be good at things, or even an expert, but once that “title” is authorised, that tower can quickly come down.
I still have imposter syndrome, of course. It’s not that I’ve gotten over it. It’s just that I’ve learnt to handle it better.
The key is always to ask questions. It doesn’t stop – and shouldn’t, I imagine, after you receive your doctorate. The important thing to remember is that the body of work is just that – a body. An organic creation that is always growing, shedding, and changing. You have to listen to its thoughts and feelings like you do for whose you “follow” on social media. No one can claim to know it all, and that’s exciting.
My imposter syndrome came in the form of, what they call in Yugi-Oh, defence mode. I would worry that people were trying to catch me out with things, so I wouldn’t be so forthcoming. Believe me, some people will be – it’s just a matter of knowing what rule book they’re playing from.
The important thing is not to be afraid to ask questions, follow up discussions, to keep in contact – people generally seem to like informing and helping people. They’ll probably find it flattering that you came to them. This is very true of myself.