Dumping my impostor syndrome

When Isis tells me to shut the hell up about my impostor syndrome, I need to listen.

This little idea cropped up in my brain during the comments from last week’s Mommy Track post. Dr. Lizzy Moore and I got into a discussion about using the mommy scientists we know in real life as our motivation to keep going. The problem is, I have a hard time believing that I’m anywhere in the same freakin’ atmosphere as those brilliant and capable women.

Several years ago, I told my grad mentor (also a mom) that I didn’t think I could ever do academic science the way she did – that there was no way I would ever measure up to her example. She looked at me shocked and asked “why?” I realized at that moment how much of a scared, silly little girl I was. I started working that day to exude some tiny shred of confidence in my abilities. After faking it for a while, I began to learn what my mentor already knew: her success was that she kept trying. She didn’t set out to be a superstar mom or scientist. She just did both jobs the best way she knew how, and it worked out just fine.

Since having Monkey, I’ve returned to that same scared little girl I was back in graduate school. I’ve started wondering again if I can *live up* to the women who came before me. I’m scared that I’ll fail, and in failure I’ll let down those women who went before me, as well as those following in my footsteps.

What a load of chicken shit.

Let me make this clear to myself, and anyone else reading. I will repeatedly fail at motherhood and science. I will make mistakes and be forced to correct my course. I will also succeed from time to time. I’ll spend too much time at work sometimes. Other times I’ll spend too much time at home. Every once in a while I’ll get the balance just right.

But I will never, never live up to the imaginary and impossibly high pedestal of scientific glory on which I’ve placed the wonderful mommy scientists I’ve been lucky enough to know.

Finally, I’m forgiving myself for the angst of this past year, and reserving additional forgiveness for my future crises in confidence. After all, rearranging your life around another human being should make you question your career, your goals, your life. However, much like my decision to question my faith years ago, examining my roles as a scientist and mother has strengthened my resolve to keep moving forward.

And, because I LUUUVVVZZZ Journey (much to Hubby’s distaste), here’s my newest theme song:

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11 thoughts on “Dumping my impostor syndrome

  1. Excellent theme song!! Excellent. Excellent!

    Part of our (or at least my) problem is that when we (I) look for mentors, we place them on this pedestal. DUDE! They totally started in the basement just like the rest of us. They made good decisions, bad decisions and some decisions in between. It all worked out. It can work out for us too–we have to work and fight for it, just like they did. One of the reasons why I brought up Michele Swanson is that she did the unthinkable and took a 2 year sabbatical when her kids were in the 8-12 range. She didn’t sabotage her career, she enhanced it. So there is more than one road to a successful career…….

    Great Post!

  2. Great! I often think along similar lines. And I love that journey song! Played for months straight as the first song in the morning! Someone told me “Be kind to your self.” I live by that now.

    And I also think if you did not re-evaluate your life after your baby, then something would be not right. Your whole perspective of the world changes.

    Good luck with everything!

  3. I’m all for using people who are further along in their careers as something to aspire to rather than an impossible ideal. There are lots of different kinds of role models too… you can pick different ones depending on what your goals are. You can look at them and instead of thinking, I wish I were her, think, how did she get there and how can I get there too? You would probably get something out of reading Mindset by Carol Dweck.

    I didn’t like that post of Isis’s because although the content was fine, she was talking about something that isn’t impostor syndrome (as some folks in her comments pointed out). Impostor syndrome is when you’re unable to internalize your accomplishments– when you think any day now they’re going to figure out you’re a fraud and don’t deserve your job or PhD or whatever it is you feel like an impostor about.

  4. You’re successes and failure are yours alone. Don’t carry the weight of women on your shoulders, as it will get you no-where. A very wise female scientist reminded me of that. As I tell monkey, there is nothing wrong with being scared or fearing, its how you deal with those feelings that matter. You can be scared of failing, just dont let it stop you from trying. 🙂

  5. I can’t speak for the girl in Isis’ post, but I definitely think impostor syndrome can apply to some of my fears. I constantly wonder if I really can do this whole sci-mom thing, even though I’m already doing it. And I worry people are going to see my ineptitude at any moment. Maybe impostor syndrome doesn’t strictly refer to fear of future failure (ie, there’s no way I will actually achieve that), but it seems to me that it comes from the same place that keeps us from accepting our past accomplishments (ie, there’s no way I was able to achieve that).

  6. Have you seen the video of the dude from Journey at a Giants game when they started playing that song? Pretty funny.

    Anyway, go you! I’m glad you’re dumping some of that self-doubt. It is hard to do, but oh so worth it. Seriously. I’ve been there. I have no idea how I got past it (that was before I blogged, so I went in for much less navel-gazing, I mean deep introspection), but it is nicer here. 🙂

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