Applied to science: 2 years in graduate school later, and they still do not suspect that I am a mere human.
How many times has someone asked you “are you a ______” and you humbly, but almost in a panic, respond ” no, not yet, not really” ? When I first began rock climbing I struggled with my identity in this way. “When am I a real climber?” I asked my best friend earnestly. Years passed and rock walls were scaled. I spent time meditating on different moves and my body found the adjustments necessary to reach higher and hold on longer. I developed technique and style of my own, and adventure gleamed in my eyes and passion filled my voice when I dreamed of beautiful peaks and ‘sending hard’. Climbing language integrated into my lexicon, and over time I acquired much of the necessary equipment to climb independently. Now am I a climber? I would ask myself, knowing that only I, that one that had set the threshold, could ever allow myself that identity. One day I finally whispered to myself: I’m a climber.
Almost 2 years into graduate school, I’ve found myself in the exact same situation. Am I a scientist? How many sequences must I analyze? How many Western Blots run, PCRs performed, cells sorted, poked and prodded. How many things must turn green, how many papers published? How many proposals written? After my qualifying exams? Then will I be a scientist? Or after I finish my Ph.D.?
This identity struggle is not unique to me. I hear many members of my graduate group espousing these fears, my peers and friends all admit to an ‘impostor syndrome’ and self describe as “wondering when someone will notice that I shouldn’t be here and kick me out”. At what point can we begin to forgive our imperfections, understand that we’re always, in this world, learning… and become, anyways, what we’re setting out to be?
-just some thoughts-