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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Forbes

(my) imposter syndrome is boring

There is nothing like an existential crisis to drive you back to the drawing board to reconsider everything you think you know, believe and hold dear. I live in Australia, which has been ravaged by incomprehensibly large and savage bush fires in recent months. Whilst I have not been directly under threat, witnessing the loss of human and animal life and devastation of natural habitat has been a terrifying and humbling experience.

At the same time as living through this national crisis, I have been diligently slaving away at a couple of research projects. I'm early career, so I'm still in the "track record" building phase. My publications track record is...being established. As a result, my mind has been going through the motions of imposter syndrome almost constantly (because it's entirely reasonable to expect yourself to be an expert in something you've not done much of, isn't it?!).

Imposter syndrome seems almost compulsory for academics. Because of this, perhaps I've been unwittingly acculturated into thinking I'm not good enough to research? As a recovering perfectionist, however, I was no doubt pre-disposed to imposter, but the recent events in Australia have given me pause to step back from my self-indulgence and try to gain a sense of the bigger picture here.

The stories I tell myself about not being "good enough" ultimately pale into insignificance when entire koala populations are under threat. The stories I tell myself seem embarrassingly, shamefully selfish when people have lost their homes and livelihoods. The stories I tell myself — whilst facing up to the realities of climate change — are pathetically irrelevant.

It's time for me to move on from these stories, or if I can't manage that, to see them for what they are — a complete waste of time and energy. When compared to a catastrophe on the scale of these bush fires, focusing on imposter syndrome comes off as an indulgent luxury. And when imposter syndrome is compared to, say, the end of life as we know it, unsurprisingly one gains a sense of genuine perspective. Living with imposter syndrome is akin to living a small, self-absorbed, ungrateful life — it's predictable, clichéd and boring.

Let's face it: who's got time for that?

My birman Yoshiko. No imposter sydrome here!


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