Tonia A. Dousay
Scholar | Educator | Leader
Impostor syndrome…that feeling of being underqualified that pretty much every graduate student feels at one point or another in their career. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, how much praise you receive, or how satisfied you are with your work. You still have that lingering feeling that you don’t belong in the big leagues with all of these other amazing people. Well, I do, anyway. And even though I know it’s a documented occurrence, a normal feeling, that doesn’t help me. Class after class, project after project, proposal after proposal, I read and re-read my work, trying to make sure I didn’t leave anything out. Though, if it’s past the deadline, finding a mistake only makes the worrying worse.
Take for example my poster for the College of Education Graduate Student Research Conference. In an effort to help showcase our department’s work, I prepared my poster a day early to put it on display with our 2nd year students. After having three people look at the electronic file and spending hours making sure that it would print in high quality, I get the poster up on the wall and within 30 minutes find a HUGE mistake. One of my tables has a duplicated cell. I felt like an idiot. How am I supposed to put this on display for judging the next day?! I could fix it and re-print it…for another $56. I could ignore the error and pray to any god who’ll listen to gift the judges with oversight. Or, I could reprint just that table and affix it to the poster on top of the incorrect one. I went this route only to realize that in my haste to correct the first error, I created to more. See what overthinking will get you? No where, fast.
Fast forward to this week. Many of us are anxiously awaiting notification from AECT about our convention proposals. A colleague of mine got an email on Friday that one of her two proposals had been accepted. I logged in to the system and saw the same “Reviews Completed – Awaiting final decision” message I’ve been staring at for a month now. Keep in mind, this is the third year for me to submit a proposal and I’ve yet to have one accepted. Honestly, this phenomenon is rather new to me. I’ve presented at a variety of other events from local to international conferences. I’ve had my share of rejections, but clearly getting accepted to AECT has been a challenge for me (for whatever reason). So, when the email came in yesterday, and I saw “Your AECT D&D Submission” in the subject line of Gmail Notifier, I froze. Weeks of waiting and hoping. Yet, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the results. I may as well have been 17 and waiting for that college acceptance letter to come in the mail (I still remember October 1993 quite well, thankyouverymuch). I flipped my Chrome tab to Gmail and clicked on the message to open it. Impatience got the better of me. I couldn’t read the message word for word starting at the beginning. Instead, I started scanning for keywords until I found what I was looking for…”pleased to inform you that your proposal has been accepted as a Concurrent Presentation.” Now, if you know me (or you’ve read this blog before), then you know what my happy dance is…
Seriously, does it get any happier or better than Snoopy? Anyway, since receiving the email yesterday morning (at 9:46AM), I have checked the online proposal system no less than three times hoping to see the “Accepted for Presentation” change in status. Of course, it’s not there yet. It still says “Reviews Completed – Awaiting final decision.” I’ve even gone so far to check the internal messaging to confirm that I really did receive the acceptance email. And even though my advisor, who also received the email, congratulated me within 10 minutes of receiving notification, I still have that damnable impostor syndrome hanging over me. Am I really good enough? Nevermind that I cowrote a paper accepted by the Professors of Research SIG at AERA that saw a great reception when presented. Nevermind that I presented at a conference in South Africa last fall. Nevermind that I was a finalist in the Three Minute Thesis competition at UGA this spring. I still worry…I probably always will.