As a female physical chemist, I am often the only woman in a sea of men at any given conference. Quite honestly, I never noticed this until one of my female science friends asked me how I felt about it.
I work for a female PI and have several women in my lab and honestly, I never thought about it. My friend was a chemist for a little bit but decided to pursue another track. Her reason, unhappiness with this career choice paired with something commonly known as imposter syndrome.
For those who never heard the term, imposter syndrome is essentially when you don’t think you are good enough to be doing what you are doing. It typically is seen in high performing over-achievers and can lead to all sorts of problems if not dealt with. Typically, not only do you not think you are good enough but think that you have gotten to a certain point by accident. In my thought of this term, those who experience this concept are so good at deceiving themselves that they cloud the truth of their success and accomplishments.
They are so bogged down that they cannot see the truth beyond their one deception, and it is quite difficult to see. She discounted any ‘good job!’ that I gave her on her research progress, and was constantly overworking. She literally didn’t have any idea how well she was doing because she just ‘had gotten lucky a few times with her experiments.’ Even though she is now pursuing a different career she is happier than ever and it is always more important to be happy with your path.
I understand that we all have doubts about our lives, whether it’s a mid-life crisis or worried about your friendships, work or family. I am writing this to remind you to try to find some silver lining and stay out of the self-deprecating negativity pit. Stop letting yourself think you’re not working hard enough at your job because guess what you are probably working too hard. I know that I never think that I am doing enough, and when I head down that road I literally pull up the things I have done the past week to convince myself that I am not falling behind. Coming up with a little trick may help you stay more positive about what you have accomplished in general, so try to figure something that works for you.
I guess my point is to remind you to do your best to get beyond the deception to reality and truth. Not only should you look for your truth, but you should also help others realize when they are lying to themselves too. And guess what it is okay to look to your friends and family for a positive pep talk when you need it. You just need to work on opening your ears and listening and believing them when they tell you that they are proud of you. Sometimes we take for granted the support system we have built in friends and family, and this piece is just a gentle reminder to refocus and stay clear, sometimes deceptions really can change your perception of reality.