Well this is a long time coming, but I finally have some time during spring break here to get it out. The start of 2016 has been extremely busy and stressful for me. Let me explain:
As part of the PhD program at Michigan State, we are required to take comprehensive exams. These are essentially everything I have learned in my 2.5 years as a PhD student (and everything leading up to the PhD program as well!) Specifically for my program, this means taking 4 written exams in 4 different areas and then (if you pass each of those) taking an oral exam. The oral exam requires you to sit in a room with 4 experts in each of the 4 areas you were tested on in the written exams. This is probably the most unnerving process I have ever gone through and nothing makes you feel more stupid (...stupider? See I don't even know which it should be anymore!) than having 4 experts grill you on their respective areas of concentration.
Thankfully, magically, I was somehow able to make it through the process and pass all of my written and oral exams! This means that I am one GIANT step closer to being Dr. Todd Buckingham and there is little that makes me more excited, and proud, than that.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post: confidence. Honestly when I finished that oral exam, I thought, "There is no way that I passed." I walked down the hall, found a corner, sat down, and put my head in my hands. After what felt like an eternity (in reality probably only 5-10 minutes), my committee members called me back into the conference room and told me I passed. What a relief! But should it have been a relief? I prepared for these exams for several months and really the 8.5 years of schooling up to this point. My problem is that I am not confident in myself...at all. What's more is that I never feel like my best is good enough.
While I was studying for these exams, I didn't even want my parents to quiz me because I was afraid that they would be able to tell if I didn't know something and that I was an impostor. It turns out that impostor syndrome is a real thing. Coined by psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, impostor syndrome is when "high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as 'fraud'. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved." Now I'm not calling myself high-achieving by any means, but that basically describes how I feel about my life. Not just about school, but with everything.
So this is another goal I have for 2016: to be more confident in myself. Now I know what you're thinking, "There's no way Todd isn't confident. He's so awesome at EVERYTHING!" Ha! Well I might act like I'm confident, but I'm not. Not really in any aspect of life. School, racing, women (don't even get me started on that one! See how Ted acts to the left. To put it in context, this was the first time he and Robin met/went on a date. I'm the exact opposite- keeping my feelings bottled up for way too long.) I put on a front, but really I am pretty insecure about everything. Even hitting the 'post' button on this will be tough because I'm not sure about sharing this "secret" about myself. I feel so vulnerable and exposed, but I think that's part of the point, right?
Unfortunately, I think this lack of confidence is holding me back in life. I'm afraid to take risks because I don't want to fail. If I don't get an A on an exam- fail. If I don't hit my time goal for a race- fail. If I express my feelings toward a woman and she doesn't reciprocate- fail.
But this weekend I watched Meet the Robinson's and there was a fantastic quote that felt like it applied directly to me: "You failed...and it was AWESOME!" If we don't fail, we don't learn. So even though it's my biggest fear, I am going to try and FAIL more than ever in 2016.
First Attempt In Learning
You just have to believe that you are good enough and that it's your level now. Then go out and get whatever it is that you want! IYLN.