And the imposter syndrome goes on – diary of a PhD student


I must confess that I had this small, idealistic and slightly odd idea that I would get towards the end of my PhD and it would all be different. I would be more sure of myself, in fact I would be certain. In this scenario I imagined my brain would be calm and clear and constantly bathed in a warm glow (like a suntan) of knowing. I would just write my thesis because, you know, I had done the work so I just knew the words. I also envisioned that I would have great ideas, and know they were great, and these ideas would enable me to keep applying for further funding as a post-doc.


Well hmmm let’s stand back for a minute and re-evaluate this scenario. In actual fact I am not more sure of myself at all. I have been studying for nearly four wonderful years and am no brainier than previously. I am due to return to part time clinical work and am feeling a little rusty. I have previously taken two lots of maternity leave (in the dim and distant years prior to doing a PhD) and went back to work feeling jittery. I recognise that internal dialogue now; “Is it this time – will they realise I am just an imposter?!” I can deal with this dialogue now. I let it have a moment and then I pop it back in its box. After all, I embarked on this journey into clinical academia because I wanted to find a way to help more people. And I do so love seeing client- I am actually rather excited about being abck.


Then there is the thesis. I do actually have to write it. And then two (TWO) examiners are going to read it. I write some stuff, then I re-write it. Then I decide not to look at it any further so as not to risk getting completely bogged down and stuck in the one sentence. Then I am reminded that two people  are going to read it so I do re-read it and some of it is awful (delete) and other bits are pretty good (did I actually write this?). I do so enjoy this writing though. I feel like I am using a muscle I have never previously used, and using it to its full range. It is a great pleasure for me. And one I won’t really get to experience in the same way again. Thus I plan to spend the next few months really reminding myself of how lucky I am.


Since I don’t really want this PhD to end, I am also planning to apply for further funding. I have lots of ideas. But I am no more confident in my ideas than prior to embarking on this PhD journey. I do hope to apply for funding to continue the programme of work I am currently doing (a post-doc!!) but only if the results of my current work suggest I should. And I haven’t completely collected the results and analysed them yet. So I’m not sure what they say. In the meantime it’ll be good to have some back up idea right? The lack of certainty is a little disconcerting. There may be a bridge across the abyss to the next pot of funding, or there may not be one. I may need to walk down to the next bridge… so to speak) and that could take some time. But it is so incredibly exciting. I am feeling so lucky to be in this position. What a great opportunity. I have a fair bit of planning to do, but that makes it all the more exciting! The start of another project feels like opening up a brand new book and reading the first page and knowing that you’re going to love it.


In my originally imagined scenario I envisioned myself being on top of all my life chores too- paying for bills in advance, getting children’s packed lunches ready without panicking about stale bread and a lack on anything resembling fruit in the fridge. I would be fitter, younger and more adept at life. Just to be clear this is not true. I am older and feel even less organised. But yes it’s true I ammmmm happier for choosing to undertake this PhD. So go away imposter syndrome, take a nap!

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