I have a new job!
I am back in the world of science, this time working for an amazing genetic testing company, where I curate primary literature. It’s a fantastic job, and I have so much enthusiasm for the position that my new boss has already had to rein in how much I am working! It’s so great to feel this kind of enthusiasm for science again, after spending a long time suffering a massive case of impostor syndrome.
In case you haven’t heard of this phenomenon, impostor syndrome is a persistent feeling of being a fraud or undeserving of one’s achievements especially in professional settings, accompanied by a looming sense of imminent exposure as a fake. Depending on the research you read, this syndrome tends to be more common in women. Whatever the case, I was certainly doing my best to up the women’s stats in this area.
This issue was a long-standing one, but when I started my postdoc career, it was compounded by my inner voice, that constantly told me I was useless and unworthy, being joined by the outer voice of my abusive nightmare of a boss. I don’t know if my boss was never held as a child, or proves that some people are born evil, but whatever the case, he treated everyone who worked for him with complete disdain and sent harassing emails late into the night over every minor infraction, misspoken word, or difference of opinion. He also played horrible mind games such as berating us for not speaking up and taking ownership of our work, only to verbally abuse us if we ever tried to stand by something we had said.
Most of the abuse came via email, so it was very easy no to notice that he was treating everyone like this, not just me. I didn’t find out that he was treating everyone this way until a couple of years into my postdoc because my two lab-mates were self-assured enough that they let it roll off their backs. After I had my daughter, I went from merely feeling like I was being singled out to actually being singled out in what, thanks to taking a 2-hour seminar on the finer points of California State Law AB 1825, was a gross example of pregnancy discrimination.
Between my lack of faith in my abilities, and his support of my lack of faith, anytime I was confronted with something new that I hadn’t done before, I literally froze. I was convinced that trying out something new was pointless, because being such a massive failure, it obviously wouldn’t work. But I was also so sure that showing any sign of weakness would prove that I was a fraud, so asking for help was out of the question. My brain would get caught in a logic loop, and I would end up doing nothing more productive than avoiding my boss and hoping whatever challenge I was confronted with simply went away. Obviously, to the independent observer, this would look like a mixture of laziness and general lack of passion, so those who relied on me and my work anyway would become increasingly annoyed with me, which I in turn would perceive as proof of my worthlessness, and the situation spiraled downward.
Thanks to my husband finding a great new job, which required us to move across the country, I was able to take a year off work and take some time to recover from the trauma that was my postdoc, and give some thought about what I wanted to do. This is also the year I took up DDP Yoga.
As I have written about before, DDP Yoga helped me not only to lose weight but to improve my mental health. The piece I wrote previously discussed general depression and body image disorders, but I recently came to realize that DDP Yoga helped me in my career too.
When I joined DDP Yoga, and joined a number of the subgroups, I was exposed to monthly challenges in the Warriors in Training groups, and to personal challenges that are shown via blogs, YouYube clips and photo galleries at TeamDDPYoga.com. The first challenge I tried was doing Wrap & Burn into Bird of Paradise. At this time, I was just trying out the Diamond Cutter, and the idea of my succeeding in this challenge was quite ludicrous, but there is such an infectious Can Do spirit at TeamDDP, that I got swept up in it and, very uncharacteristically, gave it “a go.”
That look of surprise when I actually got it was real! I had no idea that I could pull off that position. The feeling of accomplishment was addictive. I spent the next few months googling “Difficult Yoga Poses” looking for more and more challenges. Some were a little wobbly, and others (Forearm Balance) were outright failures, but I nailed enough of them, and was given such great support from my TeamDDP friends, that I developed enough grit and determination to keep persevering when I didn’t get things straight away, and to try more and more things that seemed impossible to me. In fact, I started actively seeking out things that seemed impossible rather than shying away from them.
That taste for trying newer and harder challenges leaked out of yoga poses into more and more areas. I started running 5Ks, and then 10Ks, then a half-marathon, and finally a full marathon. I decided that having been an overweight and injured lump all my life, and having no business taking a fitness class that I would certify to become a yoga instructor and teach the fitness class! And I did it!
When the position in my new company opened up, I initially thought,”This position is in genetics. I specialized in Cell Biology, and I wasn’t very good at that. What on earth would make me think I could do a job in an area I haven’t even trained in?” But then I reminded myself that I am smart, the job would come with sufficient training, and just to go ahead and apply. If the interviewers decided I was capable of doing it, then I could do it.
Now that I have the job, I still have the desire to bury my head in the sand, or panic when I see an email come in from my boss. But I also have the tools to try to figure things out, to ask for help when necessary, and to breath and calm down. That self-confidence and control of my emotions comes directly from DDP Yoga. Without DDP Yoga, I never would have gained the health, strength and determination required to become a fitness instructor. I never would have had the confidence to apply for a science position outside of the academic cell biology world which I hated. I never would have landed my amazing new career, which, by the way, is part-time and flexible hours, so I can still teach DDP Yoga, and which I truly love doing.