My postdoc research is pretty far removed from anything I’ve done before. It is really exciting, but also really difficult. I have no background in the actual work and am trying to read as much as possible and talk to as many people to get my head around it all. It doesn’t help that I am working somewhat backwards. I was given last years’ data and a plan for me to write it up before my field season starts. It is hard to understand data that I didn’t collect. Last week I had to ask someone exactly what the numbers in the dataset actually were*. The data itself isn’t the best either. Bah.
Given that I don’t know squat, I’ve been feeling like very much the impostor lately. In the past, I’ve dealt with general feelings of not (ever) being good enough. I never really thought I ‘fooled’ anybody to progress in my career or worried about being ‘exposed’ but certainly dismiss my accomplishments.
What is different is that I can’t help but feel like an impostor because of other peoples’ assumptions about me. Since day one, others in the department have taken for granted that I am an expert in this area and technique. This assumption combined with my extreme lack of knowledge is not a good mix. Any question I ask is met with, ‘Well you know some random tiny detail about math…blah blah blah.’ The slightly furrowed brows or pauses when I answer ‘uhhh, what’s that again?’ are starting to get to me. It is like I finally DID get exposed as an imposter when I never, ever claimed to be an expert in this area in the first place!
What bugs me most is that playing so much catch up in my new area has sucked me into this hole of self doubt in my older work. My dissertation chapters have sat for a month. I’ve read them over, had others read them over and gotten the go ahead from my PhD advisor but I’m just not sure they are submission quality anymore. No real reason why.
I’m not sure how to shake myself out of it but I'm going to just try to continue making progress with continued reading, working towards small goals in the research each day, continuing to ask the questions I need to – no matter how basic, and finally get that research seminar in the department done soon so these peeps know what my background really is!
*In my defense, we present data at a percentage. There are values that are over 100 and less than 0. Hence, my confusion.