If there’s anything 2020 has taught me, it is how to find the silver lining of any situation. I’d like to think of myself as a pretty optimistic and resilient person. Because of that, I think people are surprised when I talk about trying to overcome imposter syndrome, which is rife in academia and to a certain extent in the diabetes advocacy community too.
As humans, it’s in our nature to compare how we’re doing against others. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as comparing ourselves to a higher standard or benchmark can often push us to be better. However, it can certainly make for some pervasive negative self-talk and an overly competitive environment rather than collaborative one if we’re not careful.
What is key though, I believe, is surrounding yourself with like-minded people who truly believe in the work that they do rather than chasing the spotlight or the next academic achievement. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be ambitious in pursuing our goals and dreams, but to do so while staying grounded.
Earlier this month I found out that my application for academic promotion was rejected. I was absolutely shattered and spent the day moping around, being angry and upset. There were tears and comfort eating involved. My reaction surprised me because I had initially thought I was too young and early in my career to apply for promotion anyway. Yet I was bolstered along by my very supportive mentors, colleagues and friends. So I thought that maybe I had a chance and approached it with the “you gotta be in it to win it” approach.
When the outcomes were announced, my reaction surprised me. There was so much negative self-talk, beliefs that I wasn’t good or deserving enough and embarrassment with a sense of failure. After the initial shock and tears (literally, running to my husband who was still in bed and cried for a bit after reading the email), I told a few close colleagues.
Our conversations meandered from sharing the disappointment of the outcome (and a few choice words), to the nature of our teaching and research role in academia. Slowly, I came out of my haze and started to feel bloody grateful for my job. Never once did the words failure or embarrassment emerge. Instead, we talked about the opportunity we have to shape our future nutritionists and dietitians while trying to make a difference in the diabetes community and healthcare system through research.
Equally, the people I spoke with could’ve easily dismissed me and said I was naive to apply for promotion or laughed at my attempt to chase the academic ladder. (Although to be honest, I wouldn’t be friends with people who put me down…) Instead, we reflected on our environment, where we’re at in our careers and what we wanted from it and the bigger things in life.
I am so thankful to be reminded of WHY I’m in this job and career rather than just blindly chasing the next ladder rung. It brings me so much more happiness and contentment doing so in an environment where the stress and constant pressure are high. And with the current world situation, we definitely need more rainbows. So if you’re reading this, take this as a reminder/sign to focus on your WHY and to thank the people around you who keep you grounded, supported and sane.