why do I feel afraid to share my journal paper with the wider world? is this Imposter Syndrome?

This is an anonymous guest post from a PhD researcher. She is seeking advice about her current #acwri situation. 

I was first introduced to the imposter syndrome almost two years ago. I never thought it would touch me; I am highly confident, a high achiever (top of the class), and I thought I was doing very well as a doctoral researcher too.

Something changed however in the past few months. I entered into my third year, and with data collection completed, I started writing chapters. And this was the turning point. I started receiving comments from my supervisors which were all criticisms, though I have to admit though most were constructive. I was told repeatedly that my writing and understanding was not of PhD standard, and that I seriously needed to improve. It was at the same time I was writing a journal paper based on my findings, which to my utter surprise was accepted at a very well respected journal.

I always thought I would be ecstatic when my first journal paper would be published, especially if I managed to publish it whilst I was still doing my PhD. However, when I received the news, I did not feel happy; I was void of emotion. This was because of months of reviewing the paper, and then receiving a very long list of corrections, I felt had taken all the joy out of it.

The more worrying part however is that not only do I now feel like I have very little confidence in my academic abilities, but I also feel anxious to share my published paper with other academics and members of the public. The findings are not ground breaking; but it could be disseminated to the public, and may be of interests to some parts of the media. However, I do not feel like sharing it because I feel that I will face more criticism and scrutiny, which frankly I have had enough of. I know it has been reviewed by four highly respected peer reviewers in my field, and accepted in a well-respected journal, but I still feel that it may be perceived to “not be good enough”, and someone tomorrow may criticise it in public, or god forbid, say it is complete utter nonsense.

I have been trying to understand why I feel this way. I think there are a few factors:
+  I have been receiving very critical feedback from my supervisors, most of which is very constructive, and will make me a better researcher. But I also need to be reminded of the parts of my work which I am doing very well. Next to the list I have been told to write about my common mistakes; I need to write a list of what I am doing well.
+  I have always been a high achiever. It is difficult to suddenly realise that actually some of my work and understanding is a bit “rubbish”. Feeling “not good enough” or even “stupid” is something I am not used to
+  I need to remind myself that I am still in training to become a researcher. My work cannot be perfect at this point, or else I would not need supervisors or need examiners to examine my thesis.
+  ‘Criticism’ in my head needs to change to ‘feedback’ – a close of friend of mine who is a senior leader told me recently that I need to change my perspective: criticism should be viewed as feedback, and not criticism. I am working on that!

I am hoping the imposter syndrome is just a very short phase for me. However, I have read that this syndrome affects not only doctoral students but also more experienced academics. This is worrying for me; because I would love to stay in academia, but I am not prepared to stay in academia if I am going to constantly feel like my work is not good enough (there will come a point where it will start affecting my self-esteem!). I believe research is required to explore the underlying factors, so that we can address the root causes of this syndrome, instead of just trying to treat it when it appears.

My purpose for writing this was not just to share my frustration, but I wanted to reach out to other doctoral students, early career researchers and academics to ask and discuss:
1. Have any of you ever felt the imposter syndrome?
a. What were the main factors that lead to you feeling this way?
b. How did you come out of it?
2. Do you have to accept that in academia there will be some/many occasions where you will feel a bit “stupid/not good enough”?
3. Did you feel a bit afraid or anxious to share your journal paper with the wider public? What did you do?

Can you help? Please write in the comments box below.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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32 Responses to why do I feel afraid to share my journal paper with the wider world? is this Imposter Syndrome?

  1. Jennie says:

    I think everyone feels this sometimes. The solution is to feel the fear and do it anyway, I think. What is the worst that can happen in either scenario? If you don’t share then you will continue to feel that your work is below par and never gain any evidence to the contrary. If you do share, then even if everyone hates it (a very unlikely outcome given that it has been published in a peer reviewed journal), then you will have a starting point for thinking differently.
    And no researcher or research is ever perfect. Please do no let the search for the perfect paper put you off writing and promoting your good and good enough papers that are part of the discussion in your field.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Jennie, Thanks for replying to my post. I like your suggestion of “feel the fear and do it anyway!”, I am taking that on board 🙂 And you are correct, no research is perfect!


  2. Jacky says:

    I went to an event at my university last week and the presenters – very experienced Supervisors and authors of journals/books – were open enough to share that they still felt like this sometimes. You may need to make the decision about whether this is the life you want for yourself, but the fact that your paper has been accepted shows that you are definitely good enough.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Jacky, Thanks for replying to my post. In a way it is reassuring to hear that even experienced academics experience the same, however, it is equally worrying, because it means that even with experience, this feeling may not go away. I do have a big decision to make as to whether I would like to remain in academia, but atm I am trying my best just to focus on finishing the thesis! 🙂


  3. Emma says:

    It’s okay to feel like this. I can really identify with you — having always been a high achiever it’s quite difficult to hear criticism. It’s worth considering that we all react differently to criticism — some thrive on it, because it drives them to prove the critic otherwise, but others (me included) shut down and assume we must therefore not be good enough. It might be worth having a chat with your supervisors about your preferred style of feedback. They may be in the first camp, and therefore may not realise that by providing only criticism and no praise, they’re not getting the best out of you. You could try letting them know that you respond really well to praise, and that alongside their constructive feedback you would appreciate them letting you know where you’re doing well (you certainly must be doing something well, or you wouldn’t have been accepted by the journal). They possibly don’t realise that you need to hear these things too. I also think your point about being a researcher-in-training is really important to remember — and that yes, we will always sort-of be researchers in training in academia, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a peer-review system, or feel the need to present our work in public so that others can ask us (potentially challenging) questions.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Emma!

      Thanks for replying to my post and sharing your experience. I had not thought that there would be people out there who would thrive on criticism! It certainly isn’t me, but it helps explain my supervisors approach. I’m still not sure about bringing up with my supervisors, without it being taken as criticism by them (the irony!). So I think I will leave it for now, but I am glad I now have a better understanding of their approach – thank you!


  4. joanwink says:

    Been there. Felt that. I have wondered if it happens with men academics, as it does with women?
    What to do about it? Focus and Follow-through. It will pass and then suddenly return again. Focus and Follow-through. It begins all over again if you decide to go on to be an Assistant Prof at a university. Focus and Follow-through. My hunch (hypothesis) is that it may be a gender-centric experience. I am now retired and working on the next book, and it still periodically hits.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Joan, thanks for your comment on my post. You make a very interesting point! I wonder if it is gender centric?! Looks like it requires further research!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ana López says:

      It’s not gender centric. Human beings do have fear regardless of gender. Men are not perfect gods who do not feel the academic stress. My friend is a scientist and he tells me about the pression he experiences when sharing/publishing his ideas.


  5. Jenny says:

    I am also a PhD student and I have one published paper. Whilst I am proud of it, I also feel similarly scared of the potential criticism. What I find helpful is reading about people’s experiences across the web and blogs. I have to keep reminding myself that most people find critical feedback hard, no matter how far up the academic or professional ladder they are.
    I definitely feel the imposter syndrome- to an extent that I actually also find it hard to accept other people’s praise. If someone congratulates me on something good I’ve done, my first instinct is generally to try and change the topic of conversation, or to run away! I’m hoping that this will calm down in time. In many ways the insecurity might help us strive harder to achieve, just so long as we can reflect and realise that there is no ‘end’ goal. We won’t magically feel better unless we learn the tools of self-comfort. Reading posts like yours helps me feel that 🙂 Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Jenny, thank you! Your post was also a source of comfort to me! It is so reassuring to hear that I am not the only one feeling this way. I think this is not discussed more openly face to face with other fellow PhD students because of the fear of displaying our own insecurities, and fear of being judged as a “poor researcher”.


  6. sherranclarence says:

    Hi Sal,

    Thank you for sharing your fears and struggles – they are all too recognisable, and you are most certainly not in this boat alone.
    I was speaking last week to one of my postdoc advisors about feeling like a fraud, especially in relation to my completed PhD. I enjoyed my PhD and that makes me feel sometimes like I didn’t do it ‘properly’ – shouldn’t it have taken longer and made me more miserable? Maybe I cheated somehow, and any success I have found since finishing is actually going to be whipped away like one of those tablecloth tricks. It took me over a year to finally recognise myself when someone introduced me at a conference as Dr, and I realised that part of my unease with being called that before this moment was because I felt somehow like a fake, who would be found out at any minute and shown the door. I don’t find research easy, although I really enjoy writing and I’m fairly good at it. So, this doesn’t help me to feel less like a fake, although I am slowly learning more and getting more confident with what I am researching and how I’m doing it. I’d like to say I am out if the imposter phase – but the reality is that it comes and goes. My advisor says the imposter syndrome is like dental pain – you kind of get used to it and then one day it goes, and after a while you realise you’re not in pain anymore, but you had gotten so used to it that you can’t quite remember when it stopped hurting. Not sure about this yet! 🙂
    I think, in response to 2 and 3, that YES – I think there will always be occasions where I won’t feel smart enough or good enough, and where I will feel flattened and stupid, and be criticised and hurt by that. I had a paper accepted after revisions recently, which was wonderful, but at the same time have had one rejected after revisions, which was really difficult. I am always torn between wanting to tell everyone to read my published work, and telling no one about it so no one will read it and wonder why on earth I have a PhD because my research is so obvious, boring and derivative. I think, in order to get through it and keep writing and putting myself out there, I need to remind myself that my university wouldn’t have awarded my degree if my work was not good enough, and that I do have something to say in my field that is worth listening to, even if some people will disagree or critique my work. I try, as your colleague has advised you to, to see criticism as feedback aimed at helping me get better at writing and research. Most days that helps, and for the other days there is chocolate, wine and commiserations with friends. Hang in there and keep writing :). All best.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Sherran, thanks for sharing your experiences! This is something I can so relate to: “wonder why on earth I have a PhD because my research is so obvious, boring and derivative.” This is how I feel about my research too, that it is something obvious. However, I have come to realise that when I started my PhD I had an ambition to do research that is ground breaking. Now I have come to the realization that although my research needs to contribute new knowledge, the primary focus is training me to become an excellent researcher, who is able to conduct good research, and the primary outcome is not a Nobel Prize!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. maureen says:

    Hi Sal,
    I experienced Imposter syndrome for just over three months last year. I would sit at my computer every day, paralysed with an inability to write, sometimes weeping with fear and frustration. There were no harsh criticisms that triggered it, and it took a few weeks to realise what I was dealing with even though I had heard f the condition before. I felt I had reached my level of capability and would be unable to finish my studies. I addressed it by researching the phenomenon; what tactics had other people used, what support did they value etc. I worked in the margins of my studies, doing admin tasks, formatting my thesis, updating references, cataloguing papers and making notes. Every day I consciously congratulated myself on doing something positive and active towards my studies. Eventually I started to write again, revising the abstract and a really nice job;I drafted my thesis acknowledgements, recognising how much support I had available to me. I told my supervisors what I was feeling and presented a plan for writing tasks I felt I could achieve between meetings. Finally, I recalled what my first supervisor told me when I started my PhD: “there’s nothing to critique if the work is awful. Good work is critiqued to make it better”. A Phd takes you out of your comfort zones. that’s were I was, and you are now, its supposed to be scary but also a learning process. Good luck, and remember ‘it too shall pass’, in whatever choice you make .


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Maureen, many thanks for sharing your experience with me, It is hugely reassuring and comforting to see that you managed to make your way out if it successfully. I am taking from your experience this message:

      “Every day I consciously congratulated myself on doing something positive and active towards my studies.”

      I will too every week write down a list of all the things I have done well! I also like your idea of writing the acknowledgements page. I have been wanting to write mine since my 1st year, but did not want to jinx it by writing it so early on! I think this might be time to write it … 🙂


  8. Simon Bailey says:

    I would agree with the above comment, I think everyone in academia – and probably anyone who’s work involves a measure personal creative energy, fears the reactions of their potential audiences. I think in some ways this is a good way to deal with it – if everyone experiences it then there’s a sense in which the problem is diminished, though that is accompanied with the idea that it might be something you always experience to a degree. I experience it, have done from day one, and imagine I always will, but, there are formative experiences which can help you in accepting it without becoming destabilised by it. The first and biggest is the PhD. You might not ever again take a piece of work as personally as the PhD. Criticisms received in relation to it can be quite uniquely hurtful, and it is very easy to make the leap (in your head) from having a piece of problem writing to being a problem writer. I think writing journal articles is quite a conflicted process for a lot of people (though not often spoken openly about), and perfection is definitely not something I would aspire to in writing a journal article. Quality is certainly important – obviously for maintaining academic standards, but also really importantly for making the experience personally satisfying, as there are various ways in which it can be quite de-humanising. Fantastic that you’ve got something accepted during your PhD, that’s something that you should be very proud of and look to build on in the future. You really should take a lot of encouragement from the positive reception you’ve received from your peers, because this will not always be the case, and there won’t always be any apparent correspondence between what you put into the work and what some hurried reviewer might write about it. I think over time I have generated a productive sense of detachment from the process of writing for journals – it is the job, and to reference one of Pat’s recent posts, it can feel a bit like a treadmill. I actually don’t mind the metaphor, it helps me treat it as ‘the work’ rather than ‘a piece of me’, although of course it still is, and a stinging review will always hurt. It takes ongoing work to keep finding a balance between putting enough of yourself into writing to find it personally rewarding and not getting so involved that it can really hurt you, and the precise form that work takes will be a very individual affair. Engaging in academic work can be uniquely rewarding, but I think the problems you are describing are very real and very widely felt, and something that to some extent you just have learn to live with.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Simon, thank you for replying to my post and sharing your experience and advice. I like your suggestion of detaching one self from one’s work. I believe this will come with experience, and also this may be easier to do when one is working on research projects that one doesn’t solely work on (unlike the PhD). Should we just learn to live with these problems? Or are there strategies that we could use which would mean these problems would not occur? I wonder.


  9. jasperappler says:

    I resonated perfectly with your wording “the imposter syndrome”, as I have very often felt this sort of fear that “one day i’ll be found out.” It can be difficult when you feel everyone else is at a certain level, and you find yourself working so hard to produce what others seem to easily come by. But the truth (if we are willing to be honest) is we all toil in the work of our own fields. We all recognize what we think is the limit of our ability. We all try to hide the great effort it takes to get to where we are after. Be encouraged, you are not alone.


  10. hi Sal

    You may be surprised to hear my story. I do not fit your criteria, yet it is a different perspective towards criticism that I am offering. I am not in any position close to your’s, yet not far either. Can you imagine, I had five peer reviewed publications under my belt, but no university (in India) willing to admit me for doctoral research?

    Life is a very strange journey at times. I would not fit the ‘imposter’ archetype, because a great part of my research has been autoethnographic, and you cannot really feign illness narratives. But I learnt all research by myself, sitting at home- and it got accepted both within my country and internationally. So I knew I was doing at least something right.

    There have been occasions when I have got peer reviewers saying my paper needs clarifications or further writing. I remember I got the comments from the copy editor of the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, after over a year of waiting or more…and I thought it was plain offensive, because she seemed to be telling me, I did not know how to write. I was really angry, and I thought I would quit the nonsense. But then I just felt humbled and thought, “well whatever way would I have learnt, if not this, for I have not been to university?”

    So, now by dint of sheer mad tenacity, I may be getting into doctoral research, with nine peer reviewed publications in my hand, and a book, that has been repeatedly rejected by publishers…giving me the sense to re-write it. But doctoral research it is and I am willing to learn all the way. And guess how old I could be? I will be four and forty next summer.

    Do not worry about learning, it comes in various ways and when we remain open to accepting our failings and shortcomings, we remain vulnerable and I personally believe vulnerable is good. I know in every single peer reviewed publication, I have gained immensely from the reviewer comments, and since I have not been to regular university, I have requested senior friends to critique my papers before submissions. Sometimes the criticisms have been so harsh, that i have wondered whether I ought to even attempt the writing. But I have braced myself every time and taken life as a learning.

    There is always more to learn, don’t forget that and someone is helping your offering become more succinct- appreciate that.


    • Susanne gannon says:

      Submitting journal articles is a particularly strange experience and the reviewing process feels like highly personalised academic gate-keeping. My first submission came back with comments for extensive revisions (see great chapter ‘Revise and resubmit’ by Pat …) and I threw it away. I thought I had failed a test I didn’t really understand. I realized that was true when they wrote months later and said had I made the changes yet. Twelve or so years later I have published plenty of papers and my last one had five reviewers and 15(!) pages of feedback! But all of this was a gift in the end (though frustrating in the moment) because the reviewers helped me find resources I hadn’t known of, and ways through my argument that strengthened it immensely. I was entering into a new discipline area, and they had recognized my inexperience and banded together (albeit separately) to help me enter the discourse community of that field broadly and that journal specifically. So when it is published be sure it is just as experts in the field think it needs to be – a contribution to knowledge – and you should send it out widely and proudly. Let this sustain you as you go through the final writing phase of the thesis.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Prateeksha, thanks for replying to my post and sharing your experiences – I feel inspired by your post! And you are correct, reviewers comments, however critical, transform the quality of paper in most instances.

      I am very surprised that with so many publications under your belt you have not been accepted into a doctoral programme. Have you thought of getting a PhD by publication from a university in the UK for example? I wish you all the best.


  11. Bec says:

    Hi! Good luck with these challenges. I once heard someone talk about giving feedback to their students, and they said that they only give them harsh feedback because they care about them, and they want to help their students reach the level of excellence they know they have. So that perhaps that will be a nice way to think of the comments you are receiving – they’re only seeming to be critical because your advisors expect the best of you and want to help you get there.


  12. Rosey says:

    Dear Sal, Thanks for sharing your frank post. I’m sure the phd community appreciates it. This is a very real issue.

    I wanted to point to a fairly recent blog on imposter syndrome. (I have no association or interest in the blog or in relation to the author.) It’s run by a psychologist who’s interested in the kinds of things that can challenge phd students and researchers. His name is Hugh Kearns and I find his work very useful in my own studies. In terms of all your questions, you might be interested in testing out the free guides on the website and see if they’re useful for your situation.


    To be clear, I haven’t read the e-book, so I can’t comment.

    You can do this, Sal.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Rosey, thank you for directing me to the resource! It looks great. I already feel much better after reading everyone’s experiences on here, but I will download the guide and look through it over the weekend. Thanks again!


  13. Fran says:

    Hi Sal, I am a doctoral student approaching my viva in 3 weeks time, and I have suffered from Impostor’s syndrome all through my 4 years doctoral study. Yet I am a very experienced and successful professional who chose to do a doctorate upon retirement ‘for my own satisfaction and pleasure’. I actually have nothing to prove to anyone, but still the imposter syndrome struck me! For those of you old enough to remember the children’s story, I have likened my situation to the Emperor who had a new suit of invisible clothes, and was in fact naked! That is how bad it feels.

    While I have loved the opportunity to research, read and write, and found my subject fascinating, I have simultaneously experienced changing from a confident professional presenter, to an insecure stumbling researcher, unsure of the worth of what I have done.

    My supervision experience has been more positive than yours, but I still lack confidence to the extent that I didn’t try to publish a conference paper I gave 2 years ago, which everyone thought to be excellent and deserved publishing (who would want to publish it?), I have suggested that my supervisor might like to co-author a paper I have written (to ensure it wasn’t completely hopeless, and to boost his Number of published papers), and even though my supervisor casually told me at my final supervision that my thesis is in a higher league than any he has previously examined and passed, I am still not confident I will be awarded the degree.

    With a background in the teaching profession, in which we balance praise and constructive criticism, I still fail to understand the academic approach to supervision which is only critical. Yes, I understand it is ‘feedback’ and recognise that it will improve my work ( and it did certainly improve my thesis), I guess we just have to accept that is how it is. I suggest you try doing what I did, at the end of a supervision, asking my supervisor, “So, before I leave, can you just tell me one thing that I have done well?”

    If I do eventually achieve this award, I shall have to work out whether or not I tell those of my friends who initially assumed that my time spent on university work in the last 4 years was an extension of my professional career and that I was lecturing!. Not disabusing them of their assumption adds to the extent to which I feel an imposter!


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Fran! Thanks for sharing your honest experiences and replying to my post. I was also surprised (and concerned) by how much it affected my confidence (something I never thought would happen)!

      Rosey (above) shared a resources on imposter syndrome, I thought I would place the link here for you, in case it may help:


      I like your suggestion: “asking my supervisor, “So, before I leave, can you just tell me one thing that I have done well?”” I think I will do this too.

      Good luck with your viva, I am sure you will pass with flying colours!


  14. I’m not a PhD student (yet). I’m still doing my MA. But I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome all through my education. I’m a mature student, who went to uni for the first time in my late 30s. Every time I walked onto campus as an undergrad, I half expected a tap on the shoulder, with an apologetic (and very nice, which made it worse) security guard, saying ‘I’m sorry, but we’ve made a dreadful mistake. We’ll have to ask you to leave’. Despite getting a first class degree, and coming second in my year, I expected it during my graduation ceremony. I expected it the first day of my MA. I struggled on alone, reasoning that until it DID happen, I’d do my best anyway, kept getting good marks and good feedback, kept telling my brain to shut up.

    A couple years ago I mentioned all this to a friend and she said “oh yeah, imposter syndrome.” That this was something that had a NAME, that other people had, had NEVER occurred to me and just knowing that other people felt the same way helped immeasurably.

    Last year, I submitted an article to a pretty prestigous journal in my field, for consideration for a prize – this was given for the first published piece from researchers, could be from an MA student or a PhD student, although usually it was from PhD students. I didn’t take account of the fact that you have to tailor pieces to the specific journal, and that a journal article is a very different beast to a dissertation (which is where my research had originally come from), and it was returned to me with a rejection just before christmas last year. At the same time, I had no idea how the marks at undergrad level related to the marks at MA level, i.e. did a 60 equal a 50, 60, or 70 at MA level? I submitted my first two pieces for my MA not really knowing what to expect in the way of where to aim, and this, together with the rejected article, caused a crisis over christmas last year. I came close to quitting, but… having struggled with imposter syndrome all these years, I think I developed, unbeknown to me, coping strategies, perhaps rather better than someone who feels it completely for the first time. I struggled through it and when I got my assignment marks back, they were in the 70+ range, distinction level. At this point I finally confessed how I was feeling to a few people and I was encouraged to re-write the article, and resubmit to a different journal.

    That article won a prize with that journal, and will be published in January. Not a ‘first-time-writers’ prize, either, for this, I was competing with fully qualified academics. The feedback from the reviewers this time was very complementary, and although I had to make a few changes, they were minimal, and I got on very very well with the editor (still do, in fact).

    I have now delivered a conference paper based on the same research, with very complementary feedback from some of the leading academics in my field. I will be presenting at the AGM for a society to do with my subject in a few weeks, again, based on my research. I have also delivered a public talk, again, based on my research, and have been asked to repeat it not once, but three times in different venues. I am lucky in that public speaking doesn’t phase me in the slightest (although putting my ideas out to my peers/superiors certainly does!) When my supervisor first suggested delivering a conference paper I was very dubious and the imposter syndrome started screaming at me straight away, but, because I’ve been dealing with it for so long, I know what to do. I ignore it. I’ve given it a name – Dawn – and I think of it as a cute little cartoon character that features in energy adverts in the UK. Making that mental switch, thinking of it in ‘cute’ terms, rather than a monster, giving it a name… talking to it – either telling it, quite rudely, to shut up and be quiet, or, if it really is unhappy, soothing it with a ‘well, we’ll give it a try, we can always back out’, like you would a five year old child, REALLY helps. It gives you seperation from it, its not really YOU, it reduces it down to being something that has to be dealt with, rather than a huge, crippling monster that has to be fought with, wrestled with.

    I still have imposter syndrome, I still have my Dawn. But I know now that the critical thing is talking about it with other people. Asking the right questions. Naming your fear. Is this paper a piece of complete and utter rubbish? Ask someone. It doesn’t necessarily need to be your supervisor, it could be a peer instead, but make it someone you trust to tell you the truth, and someone you trust to know that you’re struggling with this, and make it someone who’s opinion you respect. They’ll almost certainly tell you that it can be improved – but hell, when can a paper never NOT be improved? But if you make the right choice of person, they’ll tell you that its a good paper, and help you move past the issue that is seizing you up at the moment.

    I’d also say one last thing about criticism. WELCOME it, because ultimately, if your written work was that bad that it was irrecoverable, do you honestly think, given how busy academics all are, that they would put time and effort into giving you that criticism? See criticism as a compliment, and it really will help with your imposter syndrome. But also learn to crticially question your criticism. Just because they’ve given it to you, doesn’t mean its right, and doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it, that you should give up, and start over. Doesn’t mean you have to take it on board. If nothing else, the whole saga with the two journals really showed me that.

    [and I apologise for the length of this!]


    • Kathryn says:

      Oh I love this suggestion of creating a character for Imposter Syndrome and externalising it! I just got given a soft toy turkey (!) that I think will now become my representation of that little voice, and I can shove it under my desk or lock it in my filing cabinet!
      Congratulations on your article publication and prize, that should shut Dawn up for a while, I hope.


  15. Hello Anonymous (your ‘name’ was the first thing I noticed about this Imposter Syndrome post!). Along with you, and many of those who have shared above, I have also struggled with the Imposter Syndrome. You might be interested in my poetic representation of this struggle- which can be found at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08893675.2015.1051293#.VhRQn_mqqko 
    (please let me know if you have trouble accessing the article). All the best as you learn to share- this is a great start! Michelle


  16. jillberry102 says:

    Interesting to read your post, Sal, and the discussion in the comments.

    I’m just completing a six year part-time EdD and am at the writing stage. I’m in the ‘post-career’ phase of my life, having worked for 30 years as a teacher/leader in UK schools, where I was a head for the last ten. All those who enrolled on the EdD course in 2010 were successful in different professional fields, but we were all warned that studying for a doctorate would be hard, and that we wouldn’t all automatically succeed. We all nodded sagely and said we accepted that. However, when criticism started to come in, inevitably, people had an emotional rather than simply a rational response – for some of us, who perhaps hadn’t been used to criticism, it was hard to take! I do think we need to build our resilience, and that we can grow more resilient over time. It’s definitely the case that in order to experience success we have to be prepared to risk failure.

    I think my studies were going OK until I got to the thesis writing stage, which I found harder than I expected. I was an English graduate and an English teacher, and thought I could write quite easily and well. But academic writing is a whole new ball-game! Pat Thomson, who was the tutor for my first EdD assignment, told me that I needed to think of academic writing as a new genre, and that helped. I read this in a blog of Pat’s earlier this year, and this has helped too:
    “It’s important to keep in mind that, with writing, it takes as long as it takes. As long as you keep at the writing then it’s likely to fall into place eventually. Slowness is often just the sign that you are doing hard intellectual work; it isn’t a sure sign that you can’t write.”

    I’m now pulling my thesis together and very much hope to submit within the next few months. I think we all have doubts at times, and how we deal with them partly depends on how resilient we are in the face of criticism, but it seems to me that facing it (publishing your journal article, continuing with a possible career in academia in your case) has to be preferable to avoiding it and backing off.

    Lastly, I do think there are interesting issues re: gender and imposter syndrome – I noticed the majority of comments here came from women. I’m involved in a Women in Educational Leadership initiative here in the UK, and this post, by a senior school leader, is based on a presentation at our recent conference. Hope you find it interesting!


    Wishing you the very best of luck!


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