Imposter Syndrome is Worse in Grad School

Imposter syndrome is nothing new, and I’m not the only one who suffers from it. Literally, we’re all in this together.

While it is so hard doubting myself and my accomplishments, it’s also rough seeing my friends and classmates struggling with the same things. In class, my friends are articulate and passionate about their research. They’re inquisitive and always willing to lend a helping hand. But all of us have our moments of doubt; Doubting that we belong in our program and in our field.

Even though that’s obviously not true. We all earned our place in our program, and we work so hard everyday to stay enrolled in it. I don’t want to be pitted against others in my program. I want us to all do our best in whatever field we’re interested in. Seriously, we’re all doing research that is valuable and I want us all to lift each other up into reaching our goals!

My program is very diverse. All of us have different career goals and we’re all at different points in our careers, too. Some of us (like me!) are fresh out of undergrad, while others are coming directly from another MA program, and still others have been working in the industry for a while and are now returning to school. Getting unique perspectives on my research is literally one of the main reasons why I came to grad school, so I’m really thankful for my cohort!
While this diversity is great, it tugs at all of our collective imposter syndromes. When someone curates a show, gets published, or gives a lecture weare so pumped for each other! After you’re finished celebrating, though, you’re left with a feeling of why didn’t I apply, why didn’t I get nominated, how did they have time to do this, etc.

The more I think about it, the less it matters, though. In reality, we’re all on different journeys through academia and at different points in our careers so comparing ourselves to each other is useless. If I don’t want to be a curator, why should I make myself feel badly when someone got a curatorial placement when I don’t want to work in the museum setting? Or why should I be upset with myself that I don’t have tens of journal articles published if I don’t want to have a tenured academic position at a major research university?

“Comparison is the death of joy,” according to one of the more famous Missourians, Mark Twain. And in 2020, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to compare myself to others less and hopefully focus on me, and the crazy interesting research that I’m working on.

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