Here we go again. Time to become stronger.

This week’s challenge:

Imagine you are a bright young PhD student with interesting articles to write. You have picked your journals, developed the thesis, and are hard at work dratfting publications.

But there's one problem. You have impostor syndrome. You often feel like your ideas are bad, or that you are unqualified, or should only write about one very narrow area. When you examine each doubt, they are clearly unfounded. Impostor syndrome slows down your progress during day long mood swings.

Give me 50 ideas to solve impostor syndrome!


Rules from JacobJacob's babble challenges

  • 50 answers please
  • Post answers inside spoiler tags
  • Not all you ideas have to work ("feel better" or "go for a walk" are great answers)
  • When your stuck, say something stupid.

If you spend 5 min agonising over not having anything to say, you’re doing it wrong. You’re being too critical. Just lower your standards and say something, anything. Soon enough you’ll be back on track.

Go get them tiger!

I will post my attempt at 5:30 EST today

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5 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:33 PM

My familiarity with the topic gives me enough confidence to join this challenge!

  1. Write down your own criticism so it no longer feels fresh
  2. Have your criticism read aloud to you by someone else
  3. Argue back to this criticism
  4. Write down your counter-arguments so they stick
  5. Document your own progress
  6. Get testimonials and references even when you don't "need" them
  7. Praise the competence of other people without adding self-deprecation
  8. Same as above but in their vicinity so they'll feel compelled to praise you back
  9. Teach the basics of your field to newcomers
  10. Teach the basics of your field to experts from other fields
  11. Write down the basics of your field, for yourself
  12. Ask someone else to make your beverage of choice
  13. Ask them to tell you "you deserve it" when they're giving it to you
  14. If your instinct is to reply "no I don't", consider swapping the roles
  15. Drink your beverage, because it feels nice
  16. Build stuff that cannot possibly be built by chance alone
  17. Stare outside the window, wondering if anybody cares about you
  18. Consider a world where everyone is as insecure as you
  19. Ask friends about their insecurities
  20. Consider you're too stupid to drink a glass of water, then drink some water
  21. Meditate on the difference between map and territory
  22. Write instructions for the non-impostor version of you
  23. Write instructions for whoever replaces you when people find out you're an impostor
  24. Validate those instructions with other experts, passing it off as project planning
  25. Follow the instructions to keep the masquerade on
  26. Refine the instructions since they're "obviously" not perfect
  27. Publish the whole thing here, get loads of karma
  28. Document everything you don't know for reference
  29. Publish the thing as a list of open problems
  30. Criticize harshly other people's work to see how they take it
  31. Make amends by letting them criticize you
  32. Use all this bitterness to create a legendary academic rivalry
  33. Consider "impostor" as a cheap rhetorical attack that doesn't hold up
  34. Become very good at explaining why other people are better than you
  35. Publish the whole thing as in-depth reporting of the life of scientists
  36. Focus on your deadline, time doesn't care if you're an impostor or not
  37. Make yourself lunch, balance on one foot, solve a sudoku puzzle
  38. Meditate on the fact you actually can do several complex things well
  39. Consider that competence is not about knowing exactly how one does things
  40. Have motivational pictures near you and argue how they don't apply to you
  41. Consider the absurdity of arguing with pictures
  42. Do interesting things instead, not because you have to, but to evade the absurdity
  43. Practice the "I have no idea what I'm doing, but no one does" stance
  44. Ask people why they think they know how they do things
  45. If they start experimenting impostor syndrome as well, support them
  46. Join a club of impostors, to learn from better impostors than you
  47. Write an apology letter to everyone you think you've duped
  48. Simulate the outrage of anyone reading this letter
  49. Cut ties with everyone who would actually treat you badly after reading
  50. Sleep well, eat well, exercise, brush your teeth, take care of yourself

Imposter syndrome hits close to home, and I'd like to be more involved in this kind of stuff. So here are my 50 ideas:

50 Ways to Solve Imposter Syndrome

1. Say to myself, "I have imposter syndrome, but I am not an imposter."
2. Write encouraging messages on sticky notes and place them in places I will see.
3. Pretend I AM an imposter and make a game out of deceiving my peers.
4. Smile to myself as I write my stupid ideas into a scientific looking paper, because everyone will just eat it up.
5. Remind myself that research and papers aren't just something I happen to do, they are part of who I am. I am a researcher and a paper writer.
6. Call a parent or someone who believes in me, and ask them what they think of what I do.
7. Talk to strangers and tell them about my work.
8. Read previous papers I've written, and tell myself what's good about them.
9. Read previous papers I've written, and critique them, so that I can see how far I've come in my skills and intuitions for this field.
10. Read papers someone else has written in this field, and write down what I would do differently or better.
11. Pretend I'm some other researcher that I know of, and imagine that they have imposter syndrome too, and write down their anxieties and fears.
12. Talk to my pet, or get a pet. I'm smarter than this cat, aren't I? This cat would REALLY have messed this up.
13. Pretend I'm someone smarter, and do the work while pretending to be them.
14. Write down a list of any specific failings or anxieties I have in this area. Is there anything I actually don't know or can't do that my imposter syndrome is feeding off of? Make those fears concrete.
15. Address the items on my list with actionable tasks that I can do to work on my weaknesses. Read that paper that I skipped, learn that formula I never quite got, etc.
16. Post something on reddit about having imposter syndrome and let the encouragements roll in.
17. Make a really simple to do list of the next five things I need to do to accomplish this.
18. Make a list of things that I would expect from this project so that it doesn't suck, and then try to make sure it doesn't suck.
19. Write down a list of all my gut wrenching fears about this, and then write a counterpoint list that directly states the opposite of every fear as a personal mantra, and repeat those statements to myself every day.
20. Pick a class that I did well in at some point, and spend some time fondly remembering how well I did.
21. Make a list of my classmates/peers that I think I'm better than.
22. Pick someone in my field who is only a LITTLE bit better than me, and state why. Then make a plan for what I can do to surpass them.
23. Buy something for myself that makes me feel like a person who does what I do -- some sort of prop that represents my valid identity.
24. Go talk to a professor/advisor, and tell them about what I'm experiencing. Record the conversation since they'll probably give me encouragement and advice.
25. Explain what I'm working on to a rubber ducky or something with equivalent intelligence, to help me work through what I'm thinking about.
26. Pick a paper/project that has a worse premise than mine and remind myself that mine will at least be better than that.
27. Remind myself that this process of struggling is part of the growth that will turn me into what I want to be, and it's okay if I'm not there yet.
28. Take a break and spend some time with some friends.
29. Get drunk or do drugs and work on the paper while intoxicated.
30. Play loud music or white noise into some headphones and work, to cut out some of that internal chatter.
31. Write a fictional story about myself overcoming these obstacles.
32. Exercise and work when I'm exhausted.
33. Get some actual sleep for once.
34. Eat some better food.
35. Try NOT drinking or doing drugs, if I'm doing those things already.
36. Browse popular media or forums where laypeople discuss the field I'm in, and shake my head at how little they know.
37. Go to therapy.
38. Look for other available mental health resources, and get some help already.
39. Talk to a friend about how hard things are, and for once try NOT being an imposter and just being myself. Let my barriers down for a bit.
40. Cry. Figure out some way to make myself cry if I can't cry.
41. Write a fictional conversation between myself and one of my idols in this field, and imagine the sort of things they would say to me to help.
42. Get well-groomed and dressed up like I'm on a date or something. Make myself feel good about my appearance and let those good feelings propagate to my overall sense of self.
43. Do that thing from that one TED talk where you pose in a position of power, with your arms up superman style. Body language affects your self-perception.
44. Record encouraging statements and listen to them.
45. Design business cards with my current title on them.
46. Get a tattoo that has something to do with my field of research. Now I'm really committed.
47. Pick a special physical space that I do work in that feels important and intellectual, and separate my personal life from work life by only working there.
48. Make a "study group" of peers and work on our projects together in the same room.
49. Write about things I know about online, anonymously, to remind myself how much more I know than the average person.
50. Study and work really hard until the imposter syndrome goes away.

Something really interesting about this exercise for me was how long it took me to consider the idea of seeking  professional help or talking to someone like a professor or advisor. I tend to be overly self-reliant, and I would have probably benefited from both social and professional advice when I was in college, but it just didn't seem like something I could do. Writing down ALL the ideas is really helpful in shaking off those assumptions. 

My biggest reasoning for not babbling is imposter syndrome. So there's no better exercise than this to start babbling :)

  1. Read a book on imposter syndrome.
  2. Meditate
  3. Talk to someone
  4. Cut yourself some slack
  5. Read about babble!
  6. Ignore it and publish the result anyway
  7. Look at your past achievements
  8. Do a poll on twitter asking how many people get imposter syndrome
  9. Sleep
  10. Go do something you know you're amazing at
  11. Write about your feelings - writing therapy
  12. Enjoy it until you have it.
  13. Get a coloring book and color inside the lines. That's hard!
  14. Cook something delicious
  15. Listen to some motivational/self-help speaker for some short-term boost
  16. Go for a walk
  17. Do some intense workout
  18. Laugh at yourself
  19. Take some time off and have some fun
  20. Take a crazy cold shower or better yet, an ice bath
  21. Watch batman take on the Justice League
  22. Help someone less fortunate than you
  23. Dance
  24. Take it out on a punching bag
  25. Do some kindness meditation
  26. Maintain a streak of how many times you overcome imposter syndrome
  27. Break it down to identify the underlying reasons, and solve them one by one.
  28. Join the army.
  29. Do something you think you can't do.
  30. Go for a therapy session
  31. Get out of your room and surround yourself with nature
  32. Watch an uplifting movie
  33. Have sex
  34. Go to a coffee-place and chill out
  35. Go for a hike
  36. Pick something else, and come back to your current activity later.
  37. Pray to god
  38. Talk to yourself and increase your self-confidence
  39. Ask someone to take a look at your paper - you'll probably hear that it's not that bad.
  40. Hangout with someone
  41. Sit by a river/lake/sea
  42. Play with some animals (puppies?)
  43. Talk to someone who you know is an imposter
  44. Act like a real imposter and fake something. You'll realize you weren't being an imposter earlier.
  45. Read psychology
  46. Buy a block of cheese and slowly enjoy it to its fullest
  47. Do a r/roastme
  48. Sing your favourite songs
  49. Go to a language club of your native language - feel like a king.
  50. Don't do anything. Sit there and notice when that feeling passes away.

I put on my robe and Babble Challenge hat.

  1. Do ten push-ups.

  2. "Hey Dr. Adviser, I'm experiencing impostor syndrome. Are you familiar with the idea, and do you sometimes get it, too?"

  3. "Hey Candidate Smith in another PhD program, I'm experiencing impostor syndrome. Are you familiar with the idea, and do you sometimes get it, too?"

  4. Post the kernel of your thesis on LW frontpage. People will think it's neat.

  5. Google "PhD impostor syndrome" and click on the first link you see from a person who's famous to you.

  6. Use your research skills and free access to zillions of journals to spend one hour looking at the best research on the syndrome; see what worked for people in studies.

  7. Jog two miles.

  8. Leave the house.

  9. Call the campus mental health center and make an appointment.

  10. See what your health insurance covers, and who accepts it, and make an appointment with a psychologist who's a "Dr."--and therefore has a PhD and probably went through it, too!

  11. Work at a coffee shop.

  12. Keep a CBT-style journal of all the impostory thoughts you have, maybe one page per thought-type, and just make a note of the thought, the date you had it, and what thought you wish you'd have instead.

  13. Get with a CBT professional (even a "lowly" LCSW can help with this) and do the work every day for six months.

  14. Get a smaller article published in a trade journal.

  15. Go to a conference...once that's possible.

  16. Get a hobby that you can use to partially define yourself, so even if you feel like an impostor PhD person, you can feel like a real...up-and-coming powerlifter, or something. (can you tell I think exercise and fitness are major components of all mental health angles)

  17. Write a book of poetry about your impostor syndrome.

  18. Consider, "Would I let this impostor-syndrome-voice jerk in my head live rent-free in my apartment? So why in my head?"

  19. Impostor syndrome subreddit.

  20. Join a union/org/etc of PhD candidates and talk to them about it.

  21. Spend time turning your thesis into concrete subsections and just hammer away at one until you finish. Voila, you accomplished something concrete. What impostor could do that?

  22. Develop an oracle AGI and ask it what to do. Please solve AI safety first.

  23. Call your parents and ask them about their impostor syndrome.

  24. Talk to GPT-3 about it.

  25. Talk to ELIZA the chatbot about it.

  26. Do this babble challenge.

  27. Set a five-minute timer to write down "all the reasons why my impostor syndrome voice is wrong about me".

  28. Consult with a BDSM professional to see if they have any helpful, uh, methods. Seems like a lot of their clients are high-flying professional people.

  29. Develop actual AGI so that everyone you work with is equally impostory, relative to the AGI, in your area of study. Please solve AI safety first.

  30. Take advantage of placebo effects--I bet a few magic spells to banish impostor syndrome would have some effect even if you explicitly did not believe in magic. Burn sage, hit yourself with a tulip, whatever.

  31. Have a conversation with your impostor syndrome and write down what it tells you. Take an outside view of these thoughts, or ask your friend for one.

  32. Re-read up on cognitive distortions and biases and see how they might be playing into your syndrome. I'm 80% confident that if you can recognize that some of what you're experiencing is impostor syndrome, then at least three distortions/biases will resonate with you.

  33. Ten minutes in the sauna.

  34. Take a month off from alcohol; observe effects.

  35. Offer free tutoring to a struggling but bright undergrad. See, you understand your subject so well, you can explain it to a struggling but bright undergrad.

  36. Five-minute timer: the ways in which your thesis will contribute to advancing your field.

  37. Spend 30 minutes in front of the sun or a sun lamp.

  38. Stay up for 36 hours--does it change? maybe it's depression-mediated? Cf. recent Astral Codex Ten called "Sleep Is the Mate of Death".

  39. Lexapro 10mg

  40. Interrogate your impostor syndrome like it's an al Qaeda operative in the 24 hours after 9/11, before we all started thinking hard about the ethics of torture. Imagine waterboarding it. Dehumanize it. It's trying to make you fail. How many seconds of waterboarding could it tolerate before it gives up and admits that you're doing fine?

  41. Tweet something at Elon Musk. Maybe he'll respond in some zany way that will make you chuckle but also be slightly concerned.

  42. Adopt a dog/cat/two rats.

  43. Use outside-view thinking to come up with a daily schedule broken down into Pomodoros. Pretend you are your own manager and structure it like you would for a subordinate. Maybe the lack of structure in PhD life is bothering you.

  44. Outside-view an update on the following claim: "I got this far despite being a fraud."

  45. Start tracking your work time in .25-hour increments. Maybe you're underestimating how much you get done.

  46. Start a literature review club with your colleagues. Volunteer to lead the first session.

  47. Post on a subreddit about your topic. Get a possibly net-unhealthy benefit from seeing Internet points roll in.

  48. Ask your advisor for a quarterly progress review.

  49. Marijuana edibles.

  50. Supposedly 30 minutes playing a musical instrument has outsized benefits on wellbeing. :::

Had a thought of giving this a go, but I didn't get to it in the initial pass. I don't know how much cheating it is to read the prompt and then actually think aobut it later.

  1. feel better
  2. go for a walk
  3. write what you think you would write 10 years in the future
  4. write in order to post a juicy post on subreddit "today I fucked up"
  5. Do an activity that you are more clearly an expert on in order to set a competence mood
  6. Don't do it - can't be an imposter if you are not in the role touches temple
  7. Be an imposter - write under a pseudonym
  8. Hypnotise yourself out of imposter syndrome
  9. Outsource, get a ghostwriter
  10. Study more
  11. Make thesis more modest and defendable (yikes!)
  12. Instead of writing what you thin write what a socially acceptable median member would write
  13. Recall all your qualificiations in detail, examine thoughts on why it woudl be insufficient for the task
  14. Get an addtional qualification before starting to feel more competent
  15. Fraudulently get an socially unassailable qualification to your name
  16. Get someone to threaten you at gun point in order to do it
  17. Go talk to whoever you would hand your text to and start talkign how you can't deliver and try to make it as painful as possible
  18. Cry to your friends how incompetent you are in order to elect passion and reassurances
  19. Cease to exist - can't have negative emotions if you are not having emotions touches temple
  20. Take psychoactives to induce a manic episode to have illusions of grandeour to carry you through
  21. Get so wasted by alchol that you inhibitions are super low (text quality warning)
  22. Promise not to publish and have easier time to write - then write text you can publish based on text you have promised not to publish
  23. Write multiple options intending to reject most and then try to keep the least stupid production
  24. Do a roleplay session and write the paper roleplaying as a high-int character
  25. Insult the whole world so much that you feel the most confident person on earth
  26. Hire a servant / prostitute to worship you to get ego boost
  27. Do an addtional paper before that has easies and way less complex journals on its basis
  28. Publicly annouce that you are going to do a performance art how people talking about such a topic are laughable
  29. Be so harsh on yourself that you think nobody else could be any harsher - then if you live throught the experience you know you ahve nothing worse to expect
  30. Intentionally sabotage the articles so that any unintetnional mistakes are masked by intentional mistakes
  31. Reflect on why you want to write the article and either feel like the pain is worth it or is not worth it and quit
  32. Start writing a "bad article" cariatyre and then keep writing less and less cariatyrish versions
  33. Start by writing the most prestigious and prideful article and keep humbling it until it feel your own
  34. Ask for extension to accomodate the slowdowns / just take it easy and suffer the imposter syndrome
  35.  Write it in the voice of other people to the extent that your own voice is not discernible and thus you feel you yourself haven't said anything
  36. Ask people to prereveiw the arcticle and restrcture it based on feedback to the extent that you feel like it is only made out of feedback
  37. Wear a mask as you write. Then feelings of imposterness are appropriate and understandable.
  38. Make the subject so narrow that your audience is so narrow that your expectations don't trigger
  39. Write the opposite of what you think. Then invert that before submitting.
  40. Defame the publication you are writing for so you don't feel letting the publication down.
  41. Dictate instead of write. Go thorught all different modes of production and pay attention whether same feelings arise
  42. The moment you start the smallest incling of imposter go do your favorite leisure activity. Don't allow yourself do leisure activity for any other trigger beside progress.
  43. Deconstruct the institute that reading articles is meaningful and promote communication channels that don't require premeditation
  44. Go find people more stupid than you so taht you get a statistic that you are atleast of average respectability
  45. Stare at a wall and psyhoterapy where your feelings of insecurity raise
  46. Cease thinking and Just Do It
  47. Apply a punishment to yourself everytime you feel like an imposter (ABA warning likely to be dysfuncitional in obvious and unobvious ways)
  48. Apply imposter syndrom to the doubts about yourself - who are you to think that you are an imposter?
  49. Prove to yourself taht no human can write a respectable article in the topic you are about to write. Then write a unavoidably bad article.
  50. Defame yourself so you have no reputation to lose by being stupid.

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