Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome and other thoughts that go through my head right now. ‘Dr. Anastasia…’ were the first two words I heard during my PhD graduation (almost two months ago!), before rushing on the graduation stage to get hooded with the Doctorate’s red gown and be given my degree. There were thousands of people watching me, at that very moment when I extended my arm to get my well deserved degree, including my dad and grandfather watching me live from Greece thanks to the video-stream provided for all friends and family who couldn’t make it to the ceremony. My supervisors along with other academics applauded me from the front row and suddenly the room felt warmer. Reality is, even though I had achieved something I was dreaming of for years, I didn’t quite feel proud of myself because the way had been rocky and full of doubts (and deep down I still couldn’t believe I made it)! I was fully oblivious to the difficulties that a PhD project entails when I applied for it – twelve hour long continuous experiments without having lunch or toilet breaks (which later resulted in me getting hospitalised with kidney stones) and laboratory instruments that weren’t working – was the norm. But having supervisors who could barely (or never) supervise me and not giving me the chance to participate in international conferences, made everything much worse. Add to all this that I’m not a native speaker and that no one read my thesis prior to submission- you can see why Imposter Syndrome and I are good friends. Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome
Still smiling and being fully conscious of all the pairs of eyes focusing on me, I made my way back to my chair, patiently waiting for the rest of the ceremony to finish before meeting with my mum for some drinks and even more ‘congratulations‘ from my friends who were waiting outside. As I was blissfully sipping my glass of Prosecco, the question landed on my head: ‘so what now?’
A question I was fearful to think, let alone address myself during the quiet evenings I spend with Cruz in my flat was there just in front of me waiting to be answered. Whilst my friend Helena was still waiting for my answer, I froze, unable to appropriately think what the future could possibly hold for me, as reality hit me hard and I realised I had lost my identity as a ‘researcher‘ as I would no longer be needed to work extraordinarily hard to pursue research and an academic title. On one hand, I felt happy because who wouldn’t be pleased not to have to work 12 hours in a lab non-stop, but on the other hand losing my identity meant only one thing….
Stripping back my main profession I was left with my other identity, the one of a ‘blogger‘ and all of the sudden, being among the faces of graduates and academics, it felt that I lost all my legitimacy and value as a person! For the past 4 years, on the occasion that people would ask me what I was doing, I’d say ‘I am a postgraduate researcher of soil Biophysics‘ and I would burst in pride because I was passionate about my laboratory experiments and it was something that very few people did (or ever heard of), so instantly, it generated a series of questions that I was more than happy to answer. But, how about now? Would I say, I am just a blogger making it sound as less of a deal as I could? Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome
I never answered to my friend. I said a simple ‘we will see’ and got another sip of my Prosecco that was dangerously coming to an end. After all, this was my special day and I wanted to enjoy it as much possible as I could. And I am so happy I did. Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome
The question though has shadowed me since then. Day and night, I wonder what is next for me, and let me tell you somedays while editing pictures whilst watching Loose Women, the question sits next to me like a big, fat monster from my worst nightmares. You see, the problem is not the question but the fact that Imposter Syndrome and I have become very good friends over the past 4 years. Despite being raised a very confident person – and I only have my mum to thank for this, encouraging me to memorise and tell the longest poems in National school celebrations and take the protagonist role in every school play – my confidence has crushed over the last few years as my role as a blogger has become ‘bigger and bigger’ and my name is linked to my blog. I remember doing my best to refrain my full name being on display or linked to my blog and general online presence at all costs by preventing brands, who I collaborated with, to use it and even send e-mails to request them to remove it on occasions. I rejected interviews in the local newspaper because I didn’t want my name to be on display and avoided talking about my blog with my colleagues and supervisors for fear they would think I was bubbly and not fully devoted to my research project. In a world where working non-stop and having no hobbies whatsoever is heartened, who was I to come up and say that I was a person with a dual identity – researcher by day and travel blogger by night! Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome
As everything else, of course, nothing rests hidden under the sun, and so when one day my colleagues asked me about Natbee’s my mouth opened like the skies before thunderstorm and told them everything. Apparently they knew, but never asked me because I never told them about it. They found me amazingly talented to keep up with my research project and work -at the same time- so much for my side projects. Some were so amazed that they even started their own blogs, inspired by Natbee’s!
The realisation that once I thought being a blogger was something I should be shameful makes me uncomfortable. Every morning, I plug away at my desk working on editing pictures and videos (have you watched my latest vlogs?), manage Natbee’s social media, look for photography inspiration, write and promote advertorial paid work and answer to all the e-mails brands send me wanting to work with me. I manage to make a living out of my hobby and experience some of the most insane hotels and restaurants, yet still when the night comes, I feel like I have done nothing, I feel like a fraudulent. I undervalue all my work, cringe when I watch some of my old YouTube videos and I have convinced myself that since blogging is not a secure profession that will provide me a pension and a summer house then I’d better apply for jobs. Imposterism has most certainly gotten the better of me!
But why do I feel like this?
Opposed to the academic world where you are valued by the number of degrees you have and the number of research projects you have successfully completed, my value as a blogger is measured by the number of Natbee’s Instagram followers and (sadly) not the number of Natbee’s pageviews. Brands, more and more are interested in the numbers of people reaching Natbee’s Instagram account rather than the blog, which is my pride and joy, a space that I have spent countless hours revising and editing articles and changing SEO links. And since Instagram is saturating as a platform and my Instagram account hasn’t reached the thousands and thousands of followers required to describe me as ‘successful’, I feel broken and that I am not doing enough. Add to this people reminding me that I have 5 academic degrees and that I certainly MUST do something to take advantage of them and not waste all these years of studying, and you have the perfect picture that lingers in my head. Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome
Important academics, wearing suits, running in between lecture rooms and laboratories, don’t take people like me seriously because (and I am quoting someone’s actual words here), someone with a demanding hobby cannot be fully devoted to their research. But is that true Dave? For as long as I remember my adult self I have always worked, studied and blogged at the same time. And on each occasion, I have always graduated with a degree, supported myself financially, while building at the same time a portfolio that currently enables me to work as a social media consultant for brands and publish paid content on my blog. Had it not been for my self-motivation and determination to wake up every morning and do things I wouldn’t have managed to sustain a certain lifestyle while working from my living room (or Natbee’s headquarters as I like to call it). I can vouch that whilst I am not making millions or producing life-saving research, I write and publish articles; manage a team of contributors; I have completed photography courses; I have taught myself about SEO and HTML coding; I have mastered the art of Communications of every sort; I have taught myself how to produce videos from videography to editing; I have attended several big brand events and I have managed to brand Natbee’s from scratch to desirable marketing standards. And if this is not good enough, here are a few numbers: 92% of marketers choose Instagram as the most important social platform for influencer marketing, 39% of them say they plan to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2018 as they have noticed sales increase after working with local influencers and 94% of marketers deemed influencer marketing to be highly effective in sales benefiting all of their clients. Influencers are being paid as little as £300 to as much as £10,000++ per post and they take time to produce quality content because they value authenticity and quality as much as glossy magazines do. So what is wrong with being a blogger?
After watching the success of blogger friends that started blogging roughly at the same time as myself, I feel that calling myself a ‘blogger’ is no longer something I should detest. When it comes to Natbee’s, I am very selective with the brands I work and the restaurants/hotels I feature, I take pride in my photography, put loads of effort to improve my writing, I don’t post just for the sake of posting and I am not saying ‘yes‘ to everything just for the sake of getting a freebie. I blog because I love writing and capturing moments through my photography. I blog because it makes me happy, it fills my days with interesting, creative projects and it is like a Kinder surprise -there is always something new every day! Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome
So, next time anyone asks me what I do these days, I will proudly say that I am pursuing full time travel blogging while waiting for a job in Science Communication to come along my way. My days as a researcher, standing in front of a lab instrument waiting for results are over, but there are way more exciting days ahead of me. Days where I will put in use my communication skills to translate Science into something exciting and make research innovations widely known to the public. Days where I will stand in front of the public and talk about my days as a researcher and encourage them to invest in research groups, and motivate students to study a S.T.E.M related subject. But until then, I am Anastasia the travel blogger, the girl who found writing more creative than data analysis.
Imposter Syndrome take that! Female Scientist Imposter Syndrome
Anyone else suffering from Imposter Syndrome or found it hard to convert to full-time blogging from their previous job?