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Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

Walking up to the United States customs agent in an airport after a trip out of the country always makes me feel uneasy. Will there be something wrong?  Where should I look as the agent flips through my passport?

So I stand there, feeling awkward. Finally, the agent looks at me one more time and then, with what seems like genuine feeling,  the agent calls me by name and says, “Welcome Home.”  

Whew. I’ve passed muster, but I’m also curiously touched.  I know there’s nothing personal in the greeting.  It’s predictable that the customs agent welcomes the traveler, but I always feel a bit of emotion rising in my chest.       

I guess I belong here after all.

Inception and Leonardo DiCaprio

Have you seen the movie Inception?  I got around to seeing it a few weeks ago and was particularly drawn to the ending when the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio shows the same unease I often feel as I wait to see what the U.S. agent may ask me.  DiCaprio gives a slight acknowledgment to the agent and then lowers his eyes—how are you supposed to look in this situation? And where should you look?  Finally the agent says, “Welcome home, Mr. Cobb.”

 

And the relieved and happy Cobb/DiCaprio crosses the boundary into the U.S. He’s home. Of course, he had reason to worry.  He could have been denied entrance. 

But that’s another story. 

A customs agent in the role of gatekeeper reminds me of how often we can doubt that we belong in a community or in a situation which formerly had seemed or claimed to be our home. 

The notion of home, returning home, and feeling at home in various situations goes beyond familiar settings, sentimental snapshots, or an address on a customs form. 

 

The writer’s home

Most ABD’s come to a graduate program feeling at home, challenged, but nevertheless sure that this is where they will find the opportunity, the collegiality, and the inspiration that will bring out the best in them.

Even if they had felt completely at home as they took classes or as they wrote papers for classes or perhaps even acting as teaching assistants, once the students have moved past their course work or into the dissertation process, they are too often thrown by the process and feel out-of-place as they try to finish their dissertations and earn their degrees.  

As I coach writers, I am struck by how frequently brilliant, capable ABD’s become stuck and start to feel incompetent and unworthy. 

Incompetent and unworthy

ABD’s know what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to make goals and meet deadlines and just write.  But for many ABD’s, deadlines have become counterproductive. The pressure and the isolation of trying to grind out text somehow raise such self-doubt that they start to question whether they belong in this doctoral program.  

Some compare themselves unfavorably with others who are further along in the dissertation process.  They feel such regret and, worse, they feel such shame for time wasted during the doctoral program that they’re almost paralyzed. 

Do they have what it takes to finish this degree?  The familiar situations and professors no longer seem reassuring, but rather seem to raise barriers to the extent that ABD’s start to see themselves as frauds or imposters. 

Lower the stakes

If this sounds like your situation, you could take a cue from some graduate students who have gone through periods of self-doubt and shame and have rewritten the process to make it work for them.  

Instead of focusing on the product or on finishing, focus on the present moment. Determine the block of time that you are setting aside each morning for yourself and decide what your choices will be during that time.  You can decide that you will write and that’s all, or you could have a variety of tasks to choose from, as long as you put in the time.  What is important is that you step back from the process and lower the stakes from producing something brilliant and perfect to doing something.

Ebb and flow 

The writing process will be one of ebb and flow. Some days, the writing will be crappy, and other days you might think the work you did wasn’t half bad. What is important is that you show up each day at the time you have carved out for yourself and write. Do something. And it will be good enough.

Welcome home

The block of time for your daily work is your place and your time. Rewrite the script; redesign the scenery. Make the delivery and the timing your own. This is your home place. And at the beginning of each writing session, greet yourself. I bet you would smile if you greeted yourself each morning with “Welcome Home, Mr. Cobb.”  

Warm regards,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
www.smarttipsforwriters.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net
www.nancywhichard.com 
 

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Have you turned up the heat on your dissertation now that summer is here?  Is your summer writing starting to take off yet? What are you using as an incentive?

One of my clients has a new powerful incentive—one that she says has given her a sense of purpose about finishing her dissertation.

Let me tell you her story of how she found this incentive.  There are three parts to her story.

1. First of all, she admits that she has had fear and uncertainty around what finishing her dissertation might mean for her.  And that fear has at times held her back.

She has resisted seeing herself as an expert or emerging expert. She has also resisted the idea that she is carving out a niche for herself in the academic world as she writes her diss.

Because she has questioned her own knowledge and the quality of her research, she has at times avoided people and avoided situations where her self-described inadequacies might show her to be the fraud she feared she was. 

2. The second part of this story has to do with a shot in the arm that my client received by going to a conference.

As a graduate student, she has been to many conferences, presenting and discussing, but even so, in many ways, she has held back and hid out. She said that the most recent conference got off to the usual slow start that she’s experienced at many conferences.  As she usually did, she spent the first night in her room, resting, and missed an initial gathering.

The second day of the conference was the beginning of her transformation.

Her advisor said that at the gathering which my client missed, that he had talked to several people about her work.  In addition, some of the other graduate students and professors attending the gathering were interested in talking with her and hearing more. 

This was the push she needed.  She began to drop her fear of being revealed as an imposter and gradually became more at ease talking about her work. 

She dared to think more boldly about her diss and tried out some of her ideas by asking questions in the sessions she attended.  She sought people out and for the first time enjoyed networking.  This was all new for her and took courage, but she was acting on the sense that had come from the revising and honing of her ideas as she had worked on her diss over the last many months and years–that she did indeed know a great deal about her topic.  Furthermore, during the conference, she almost allowed herself to feel like an expert.

3. The third part of this story is that she came home with a new realization of why she is writing a dissertation—she wants to share her ideas and thoughts.  Sharing her ideas and testing her ideas at this conference were such powerful experiences that she no longer sees research as a way to stay insulated or in her bubble.  She is starting to see the excitement that can be hers, and she wants to burst out of her self-imposed academic bubble. Getting her dissertation out the door is the next step, but she no longer feels that the diss has to be perfect before she lets go of it.  Now she says that she needs to get her ideas out in the market place, and she has hopes that finishing her diss can be the start of much more work on her ideas.

With this wind at her back she says that she needs to do a last, strong push toward the finish line, rather than hovering around the last mile or two.  This confidence in her future is just what she needed.

And that’s as far as the story goes today about my client and the boost she got from
(1) getting out of her own way,
(2) enjoying the thrill of sharing her ideas with others
at the conference, and by
(3) acting on her excitement from the conference to fuel her rapid movement toward the dissertation finish line.

How about you?  How can you motivate yourself?  What if you acknowledged your expertise and started to act as if you, too, have ideas and writing that you want to get out there into the world?  It could be a brand new day!

Have a brilliant writing session today.

Nancy
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

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