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Outside the Lab Profession

Behind the Mask

If I asked how many of you had ever suffered from impostor syndrome, would you raise your hand? It’s frequently talked about in the modern world – particularly among millennials – but why does it always feel like you’re the only one who has these thoughts of self-doubt?

In January 2022, I was promoted to Deputy Editor of The Pathologist – an achievement I had worked hard for over the past year, but one that came with new responsibilities and higher expectations. As the first promotion of my career, it was met with joy sprinkled with an ounce of dread – what if I didn’t perform as well as I had in a more junior position?

Impostor syndrome is the kind of feeling that leads you to a fork in the road; you can either let it paralyze you and hinder your progress or you can sit with the anxious feeling and carry on regardless. For me, it’s a feeling that comes and goes depending on the task at hand – such as when we launched our podcast, The Pathology Grand Tour (listen, rate, and subscribe, if you haven’t already!). The show is a 12-episode tour around the different subspecialties of the lab but, as someone who has never set foot in a wet lab (my background lies in psychology and neuroimaging), who was I to host a podcast about life in the lab? “But then again…” I’d think to myself. “That’s what my guests are for!” Sometimes all it takes to gain confidence is a few positive comments from others – but we all need to become advocates for ourselves before the hard shell of self-doubt can truly crumble away.

Since starting at The Pathologist, I’ve learned how pathologists can be forgotten as members of the clinical care team – working behind the scenes as the “doctor’s doctor.” I used to think my primary care provider issued my diagnosis from blood tests; now, I rave to anyone willing to lend an ear that it is, in fact, lab medicine professionals who spot, identify, and stop your disease in its tracks. It’s easy to see how impostor syndrome might arise in pathologists when their work often goes unrecognized by patients and fellow clinicians despite being the backbone of patient care.

Does impostor syndrome ever go away? Honestly, I hope not. Experiencing that semi-dreaded feeling means we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and creating a seat for ourselves at the table – and that helps us grow. Personally (and professionally), I’ve found that the only way to get over it is to go through it – and go through it I will because I’ve come to realize that no one knows what they’re doing 100 percent of the time; we’re all often just winging this crazy thing called life!

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About the Author
Liv Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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