This feels awful

Impostor Syndrome

Yeah... we're doing this

People of all levels feel it. You will never publish enough high quality, high impact papers fast enough to overcome it.

Do not use others as a metric for yourself. Some will seem far ahead. They don’t have your project. Often other people’s pathways are missing something that you need.

You have skills others don’t. They have skills you don’t. This is fine: you have different projects.



Focus on:

The quality of your work instead of whether you are “good enough”. “Good enough” is a moving target.

Is your knowledge improving?

Does your research have the potential to make a contribution?

Do you come up with lots of ideas?

Is your research solid?

Are you a leader amongst your peers?

Do you love research?*

Common personal metrics are faulty

Ideal journals for your career?

Science and Nature

We can all agree this is not the metric of good research. Who the fuck told you that this is needed for a research career? Get a few more mentors

Ideal number of papers per year?


There is no magic number to be "good"

Articles that have made an impact in your research?

Specialised field journals (mostly)

Achievable with solid research

Read by researchers in your field

Professors/postdocs/more advanced PhDs know more than me

No shit

They have been doing this longer than you. It would be concerning if you knew more than them

You ask stupid questions

Nope. Not a thing**

You are allowed to not understand something or want clarification. This doesn’t rule you out of having an academic career. A researcher's job is to ask questions and then try and find answers.



Whatever the opposite of impostor syndrome is, aim for that

While research can facilitate imposter syndrome, it can also facilitate the opposite. Your PhD can also provide an environment to become a thoughtful, resilient, and confident person.

Just because you have not yet mastered all aspects of research, doesn’t mean you can’t do research.

Lots of red text on your article draft? It doesn’t mean you are a bad writer, it means you are learning a new skill, and writing for publication can be difficult.


Be your own honest critic and best friend^

That means be as understanding of things going the wrong way as you would be of a good friend.

It is common to seek perfection, and as a result, be incredibly harsh and unkind to yourself.

Fuck that shit.

It only makes your life worse.


Strive for good work, but don’t hate yourself if things fuck up.


^Urgh! I know, so corny. I can’t figure out how to say it in a non-corny way. Despite the corniness, I stand by the comment


Do other people make you feel bad about yourself?


Does someone make you feel bad because you compare yourself to them, and then you feel inadequate?

Then you need to fix how you feel about yourself

Does someone make you feel bad about yourself because of things they say or do to you?

Fuck them. Avoid them where possible and choose to keep their junk comments out of your head

Look. An actual paragraph of text:

Some people will scare you with their own anxieties about themselves or their own career. If you are a good person, well-liked, with good research, then people will support you. You can get by. But it is tough. Sometimes you will question your self-worth, your life choices, whether it should be this hard. I don’t know if it should be this hard. Nevertheless, you're reading this for some reason. You can’t make it easier for other people unless you become more senior and change the rules. So keep going with your career and bring others with you.



*Most of the time
**Exception: "What happened to Crazy Town? You know, that band with that song Butterfly in 2001?" This is a stupid question