skip to primary navigationskip to content

I feel like everyone else is better than me

"I think there is a general tendency for women lacking in confidence to be quiet, whereas if men are feeling insecure they will often compensate by making more noise. This is a bad combination. I wish I'd known earlier that everyone is insecure, but we just have different ways of dealing with it. It's easy to be distracted by the noise sometimes but I think the best solution is to get absorbed in pushing on with your own work."

Professor Rebecca Kilner


"I often feel that I am not doing well enough, or that I’m not fulfilling what’s expected of me. I’ve never been formally trained in leading or managing people, and I’m naturally a little introverted. For these reasons I think that I probably shouldn’t be here, but I am; so I try to be proactive and look for new strategies. I like asking others in similar positions, how they deal with the demands of the job. Training courses offered by the University are a great way of learning new skills, meeting new people and exchanging ideas. For example, the 'Introductory Certificate to Management' course was great."

Dr Matthias Landgraf


"Mediocre men abound, but there are no mediocre women in Academia because they have had to be better than their male counterparts to succeed. When mediocre women abound we’ll know we’ve achieved equality.

Networking is crucial. I didn’t know about it in the beginning, but you need to meet the people who matter, not just to compare notes with other women,  but to make connections. It’s necessary to make external links to get any sort of power or influence. Men seem to know this, whereas women don’t. Women won’t get promotions/awards/editorships unless a man nominates her for it (as there aren’t enough women to put other women forward). Self-confidence is very important for men to take you seriously. You need to form an exterior appearance of confidence, even when you are cowering inside."

Dr Nancy Lane


"I wish someone had told me when I first arrived in Cambridge (as a new PhD student from South Africa) that it is inevitable that you will feel stupid here, and convinced that everyone else is vastly smarter and more productive than you are. I felt that, and eleven years later still do, but (it turns out) so does almost everyone else. Eventually I learnt that all this has a name -- imposter syndrome -- and that general feelings of unworthiness are common at all stages of academic careers, especially in women. The physicist Athene Donald has written a brilliant blog post about it. For my part I still don’t feel that I know how the academic world really works, and that I'm still just bluffing at being a grown-up in this business. But at least I know I'm not the only one to feel this way. And maybe it doesn't matter!

I've always somehow assumed that if I work hard enough, one day I’ll catch up with everything I have to get done. A colleague had to point out to me recently that in over a decade I still haven’t got on top of my work, so unless I put on a limit on it, I'll just spend the rest of my life working all the time and still feel idle and incompetent!"

Dr Claire Spottiswoode