How to Combat Imposter Syndrome During Your MLIS Journey

As I’ve mentioned before in my previous posts, starting graduate school can be stressful. This is especially true if you’re starting a program you have no previous field experience in; which is the reality I have lived in since starting my MLIS program in January. So far, my lack of previous experience hasn’t been detrimental to my studies; but it honestly has been challenging at times and made my success a little harder to achieve since I’m operating with less practical knowledge than most of my peers are. Thus, since I’m often in class with others who are far more experienced than me, it sometimes makes me feel a little bit out of place among my peers. This has sometimes led me to experience momentary feelings of imposter syndrome since graduate school is often the next step for people to take after they already have accrued field experience and are seeking promotion to the next level of their career. So, for someone who doesn’t have said experience, it sometimes feels like I skipped a few steps when I hear about all of the steps my peers took to their degree.

For anyone unsure of what imposter syndrome actually is, it focuses on having persistent self-doubt despite being successful in whatever one’s doing. However, these feelings don’t equal a low perception of self or low confidence levels. So, it isn’t a matter of whether someone’s competent enough to complete something, but whether or not they believe they deserve the success they earn and/or should be where they are. Gill Corkindale details a lot of good ways to combat these feelings, even though the causes she proposes are limited, by acknowledging them and the forces causing them, discussing them, and exercising self-care when needed (Corkindale, 2008). Something I have learned while in graduate school so far is that, regardless of how successful you may be in your program, if you don’t take time to check in and make sure you’re respecting your own boundaries and not overwhelming yourself; then you’re going to run into issues.

But, you may be wondering if I’m doing well in my program otherwise, why do I sometimes feel like this? This is a valid question as sometimes I ask myself the same question while completing my assignments. To be honest, I know from experience that even the most confident people – which I like to consider myself 98% of the time – can harbor doubts about themselves and their abilities; especially when they feel exhausted and overworked. I felt like this a handful of times in my first semester because, with the 10 units I was taking then, I often had a lot to do in a short amount of time while trying to balance everything well. So, even if people don’t always outright say they’re experiencing feelings like these, regardless of their frequency; they may be and they don’t know how to talk about it or are unsure how they’ll be received by others.

They may think that because they got into a program and are successfully completing their assignments and degree requirements that their doubts are unfounded. However, I know from experience this isn’t true because getting into graduate school is one thing, but staying in is a whole other story; depending on the standards you have to meet within your respective graduate program. So, for everyone who has someone in their lives attending graduate school, please handle them with care because we’re all going through a lot right now as we complete our degrees and plan for post-grad life. (I know this may sound like a joke, but it’s true.) Since graduate school can sometimes be emotionally, mentally, and/or physically-taxing, everyone currently in it needs a strong and healthy support system to rely on when needed – even when they don’t outright ask for it. So, whether you’re in graduate school, considering it, or know someone who’s getting ready to start their graduate school journey, please show up for those who show up for you.

So, in addition to the recommendations I’ve suggested already to combat imposter syndrome, I can also suggest that:

  1. Sleep is key. I know from experience that getting 7-9 hours of sleep will keep you healthy and focused. However, I know that not everyone’s schedules allow this, so naps also help, too, when you can get them.
  2. Stay organized. Regardless if you write in a physical planner or maintain a schedule on your computer, use the organizational method that works best for you so you don’t lose track of your deadlines.
  3. Remember to eat and eat well. I know healthy eating may not always be the most efficient or easiest option, but it’ll help keep you well so you don’t have to risk getting sick when it’s the most inconvenient.
  4. Take time for yourself. As some of my previous points show, self-care is essential to your success in graduate school. So, regardless if you take five minutes to read a book every day or take an afternoon off to spend with family and/or friends every once in a while, you should try to take time for yourself regularly (if you can) so you can prevent burnout and stay on track to graduate.
  5. Respect your own boundaries. Since graduate school can be incredibly stressful, you need to know when you need a break. So, please take the time to establish and maintain healthy boundaries in your life so you don’t run the risk of burning out early on in your respective graduate program.

Over the past nine months since I started my program, I’ve learned a lot from the experiences I’ve had while I’ve worked to find my niche in this field. So, I hope to impart much of what I’ve learned to help others who may be experiencing the same feelings. While I’m confident in myself and my abilities, I’ll admit that, some days, it’s a little harder to exude that confidence depending on what may be going on in and separate from my schoolwork. That aside, I know I’m supposed to be where I am and the success I’ve had in my program so far supports that. So, to anyone reading this who may be experiencing a little bit of imposter syndrome or knows someone who is, please know that you’re meant to be where you are. Be proud of everything you accomplish; and don’t let anything or anyone undermine your success, yourself included. You’ve already made it so far, so you deserve to enjoy your success.

References:

Corkindale, G. (2008, May 7). Overcoming imposter syndrome. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2008/05/overcoming-imposter-syndrome.

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

1 reply

  1. Thank you so much for writing this article! I started my MLIS degree in January too, and the Imposter Syndrome has been utterly nefarious even though I’m someone who has years of experience in libraries. I think one of the things that has helped me come to terms with it is the fact that EVERYONE experiences Imposter Syndrome to a certain degree. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. Having a support system comprised of your peers is underrated! Healthy venting to each other is an excellent way to bond: we’re all this together! Expressing these feelings to MLIS friends is a great way to create an echo-chamber of reciprocal validation. 😉

    Like

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