‘Imposter Syndrome’? – A First-time Trainee Experience

July 28th, 2014

Written by: Nikita Rodrigues


As I sat in my first CPS symposium, I was flooded with ‘imposter syndrome’. “Oh gosh, they’ve made a mistake by accepting me into PICH. I have no idea what is going on. Why did I think it was a good idea to do this?! Everyone is so smart and talented and accomplished!” But, I did some quick cognitive restructuring. “I’m only a first-year graduate student – it’s okay if I don’t fully understand everything. If I nod along, they’ll think I understand. Right?”

As the conference and institute progressed, I gained an elementary understanding of pain neuropathology and began imaging how this information was going to shape my research and my future clinical practice. I enjoyed discussions about the value of the biopsychosocial model in today’s research and the ethics of online therapy. I gained a deeper understanding of the neurological side of chronic pain and collected some “painful yarns” to use to explain these complex concepts to patients and friends. My narrow view of the psychological aspects of pain was broadened as I sat and listened to top researchers describe the cutting edge research in their field, whether it be in genetics, neuropsychology, pharmacology, or other areas. I was captivated by the wide variety of information that was presented to us in an approachable manner during the daily sessions.

After days of lectures and discussions, my learning continued at restaurants and PICH social events. I found out that I should consider myself lucky to have a cross-country distance relationship as opposed to the cross-world relationships that seem surprisingly common. I discovered that it is possible to have four children and over 4,000 citations documented on google scholar.  I learned that Dr. von Baeyer is a talented actor (or should I say actress?) and is definitely a key player to have on your team in any competition. But most of all, I learned that helping youth in pain via research and practice is a passion shared across countries and cultures and it provides a common language through which it is easy to quickly develop new relationships.

When I returned home from Quebec, I opened my computer to find my email inbox overflowing with thesis advice and references and a Facebook page with friend requests from new friends and colleagues all over the world. As a first time PICH trainee, this outpouring of help and friendship sums up what I found to be so uniquely special about PICH. I am grateful to be welcomed into this environment where I can receive strong and kind professional and personal support. I look forward to strengthening my bond with the PICH community and one day being the one to reach out to a new PICH trainee who is suffering from imposter syndrome. I know that PICH is going to be an important part of my graduate school experience and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next!

Nikita - Photo