Picture (above): Infrared satellite image of a Northwest Cloudband Jan 12th 2010. Credit: Knapp (2008) See references.

My first ever paper was accepted last week.

The paper is my Master’s work condensed and refined into 7,500 words. I built an algorithm to automatically and objectively identify Northwest Cloudbands (NWCBs) from 31-years of satellite data, which allowed us to assess the climatology, mechanisms and relationship with rainfall of these systems.

I submitted the paper to Journal of Climate at the end of January and received the first round of reviews a month and a half later. I generally think of myself as pretty self-aware. I know what I’m good at, I know what I’m bad at, I know when I’ve done something well and I know when I’ve done a lousy job. I think it’s because of this trait that I never really experienced imposter syndrome.

Except for those 6 weeks between paper submission and first reviews.

This was the first time my work was being judged as the work of a scientist and not a student. The person judging my work wasn’t my teacher or lecturer whose role was to help me learn and improve, the person judging’s role was to determine whether I’d produced good enough science that was worth being published.

This was when all the cracks would be exposed, and when I’d confirm that my supervisor was, in fact, just being nice whenever he praised the paper. I would be torn to shreds in the reviews because I didn’t think of myself as a ‘scientist’; I was still a student and the two were mutually exclusive in my eyes. I was about to be exposed as a fake and it would be discovered that I was wasting everyone’s time by starting a PhD after my Masters.

So, naturally, when the email arrived with the first round of reviews, the first thing I felt was the urge to vomit.

“This is a well-written, comprehensive and thorough paper…”

“I am happy to recommend publication…”

“The research is original and well-suited to publication in JClim…”

I nearly cried from relief. Then the realisation dawned on me that I had just experienced my first real bout of Imposter Syndrome. As someone who thinks of themselves as being quite self-aware, this came as a shock.

For the record, there were also lots of things to fix in my paper.

After another round of reviews, my paper was accepted for publication. I still sometimes question whether I was lucky and got kind reviewers, or whether they were just nice because I’m a student.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Kimberley Norris from the University of Tasmania says the best way to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to gather evidence. When your brain tells you that you don’t deserve that paper acceptance, job, promotion, grant etc. don’t just believe it, assess whether it’s true. Have you been working hard? Has your peer or supervisor complimented your work lately? Have your skills improved from 1, 3 ,5 or 10 years ago? If yes, then evidence suggests you probably DO deserve it.