Look at All These Brilliant People…and Me: My Imposter Syndrome at My Favorite Conference

I am at my favorite science communication conference, sitting on a chair, slowly sinking lower and lower, listening to everyone’s great accomplishments in science communication, their inspiring stories, their life as a real scientist. And I am, just someone that researchers science communication, hangs out with astronomers at the planetarium, makes objectively artistically bad doodles and got to be sitting here with the rest of these brilliant people that I admire.

I don’t think I will get caught someday like they describe imposture. I don’t even think I got here by chance. My imposter works in a different way…I tell myself, I phrased my application well, the standards are low and I’m good at pretending to know what I’m talking about.

When the impostor hits me, I freeze in time. I forgot my history, my accomplishments (I cringed writing this word), my successes and who I am. At that moment, I become a person sitting on a chair, or a person eating food, or a person scribbling on a notebook, and everyone else becomes an amazing YouTuber, blogger, activist, storyteller. Because on that moment, they are telling a great story about their accomplishments, and I am desperately trying to have a sip of water without splashing the water into my nose (it happens more frequently than you expect). I am just a weirdo, in the company of the excellent.

I am aware that this is my imposter working so I gotta do something about it. I read somewhere that writing your daily accomplishments in a notebook will help with the syndrome. So I started: I got a compliment on twitter…someone said I brilliantly tell stories of science. Hmmm…but did they REALLY know if I brilliantly tell a story? Did they post that because when I was presenting my work I kinda looked pathetic and they felt bad for me? Maybe they just posted that as a gesture to promote science communication in general and it wasn’t really about you. And the list went on an on. And here I had an item of accomplishment and a whole page of why they were wrong about it.

And then I remembered, that all I could do, was to tell my story. If there’s one thing I have learned from group therapy, is that, when you say it out loud, it feels better, whether it’s anxiety about something, embarrassment, or anger. And here I am:

I feel like an impostor. I feel like I am surrounded by real scientists who go to the forest, under the sea, in their labs, or behind their computers coding, while I have to ask the cringe-worthy question of, is my social science research even real science?

I feel like everyone is doing a better job of reaching a bigger audience. I look at people’s bios and followers and listen to them talking about the cool conferences they go to, smiling at them, while deep inside, being envious. And the funny thing is…I don’t want to be anyone else but myself. I want to be me…I want to study what I study, the way I do it. Having more followers or certain jobs will not make me happy. What really makes me happy is to share my joy, curiosity, and misery with others.

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