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Re: Current/graduated students: first year advice and overcoming imposter feeling
Well, I started my PhD last year. I try to do my best, I sometimes I tried too hard in this first year. But by now, I'm completely convinced I'm often one of the worst in most courses related to calculus. It's not impostor syndrome, it's just a fact.
However, to be close to such an amazing group of people is already something outstanding. So, I'm the worst, but in a class with some of the best in the world. It's a lot better than being the best in a class of mediocre students.
To study and become friends with such an amazing group of people is a reason to be happy, not sad. And something that really helps me to improve. Do you really prefer to be with people who are worse than you? I don't.
Who cares if I'm one of the best in class or not? The goal is not to be one of the best, the goal is to do my best.
I don't think of other people in class as competitors. I think of them as allies, and I want strong allies, not weak ones.
If I knew what I know now, I'd have studied a lot about matrices, integrals, and derivatives before starting my PhD. Maybe you can do that.
And, even if I'm the worst in those classes, I also know I'm better in other aspects. My advisor told me today, for example, that I'm very good with research ideas, literature review, writing, so he doesn't plan to help me very much with that kind of thing. Being older, I'm often better with some things that are related to life and professional experience.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Find yours, and work on them. The best in class are amazing, but they are not supernatural creatures. I notice that the best student in the Econometrics classes is a genius to calculate things, but he has a harder time understanding how all those matrices, integrals, and derivatives are related to real-world problems, for example. And, maybe related to that, he had almost no experience reading research papers.
If you really have a hard time during the PhD, talk with other people. At least at my school, there is a lot of support. People know it's hard, and people are willing to help.