I am looking for some help finding new thoughts related to worthiness.
Some backstory (warning…lots of thoughts.)
Throughout grad school and my career as a professor, I have struggled a lot with imposter syndrome and feeling like I am not enough. I don’t know enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m going to be “found out.” And all different versions of this thought. I am VERY good at practicing this thought, and I am also very successful at finding evidence to prove it true.
Over the last several months I’ve realized that I also align my work – my teaching, research, writing, etc. – with my worthiness. When I’m not getting “enough” done or I get critical feedback on my research, I see it as a reflection of who I am as a person. When my work is not “good enough,” then I am not good enough. This is especially true with my research/writing/scholarship. I struggle the most with this area of my job, and my research is where the beliefs are the strongest.
Again, I realize these are my thoughts that I’ve practiced for years, but I believe them so strongly that they feel like truth. I thought I was making progress on separating my worth from my work, but then I had an incident at work this week that sent me into a shame spiral.
I am a tenure track professor (I go up for tenure after 7 years). I am in year three. During this year we have a 3-year review, which is when your department decides whether to continue the contract for another 4 years. I submit a dossier with a letter describing my contributions to my field as a scholar and a teacher as well as samples of my work.
While my contract was renewed, I received some negative feedback on my scholarship and my brain went crazy. The feedback had a paragraph of criticism, so I won’t include it all in my model, but one of the main sentences was this:
C: Feedback said – We have concerns about both the quality of your scholarship and the rate of publication.
T: I am too stupid for this job.
A: Continue looking for further evidence that I am not smart enough for this job.
R: Fully reinforce this thought. Not take action to learn from the experience. Feel like crap about myself and the situation.
I know I have a lot of work to do around the shame and allowing the shame rather than resisting it; I’m working through that. But I also want to work on the big-picture challenge of separating myself from my work. Right now I can’t believe that my department’s “concern with the quality of my scholarship” is not the same as a concern with my quality as a human. And that thought hurts. A lot.
I apologize for the lengthy message. But I would appreciate any insight into how I can start separating myself from my work and how to start believing in my worthiness. Thank you so much for your time.