Impostor Syndrome & The Dunning–Kruger Effect

I have heard that graduate students suffer from Impostor Syndrome. I suppose that I do, too, but not in the traditional fashion.

Apparently, many graduate students decide that they do not deserve to attend the university, they think a mistake was made and that they are impostors. They believe that faculty are brilliant and untouchable and that their peers are highly intelligent and motivated. And that, somehow, these faculty and fellow students are correctly placed. I never felt this going through my graduate program, as the coursework was simple, as were most of my “peers.” My complaint, and its reception, mirrored an exchange between Lisa Simpson and Principal Skinner. Indeed, it looks like most of my peers made it through their programs under the Dunning–Kruger effect, and sucked faculty into this vortex of self-promotion and -delusion. And they were successful.

I have written earlier about my intense dislike of bio-sketches. When confronted with the blank page and the task of defining myself–and impressively!–it feels so ridiculous and artificial that it overwhelms me. It is when I am confronted with my own vision of who I ought to be that I feel truly inadequate. Furthermore, that person is not me. He has more hair, more hope, more support, less weight. He is significantly happier than I and has sufficient funds to be a “regular” at one or two places. Or to buy a cup of coffee. His major professor supports him and is interested in the work he does–or at least returns emails, phone calls, and text messages. He also isn’t quagmired and stalled under the crushing misconception that earning a PhD requires a lifetime of research and successful inquiry.

God, I envy that guy. He has, while not everything, enough. He has been given a fair shake and has made the best of it. And he is able to capture this in writing–he writes about himself fluidly, simply, and with praise. I suppose that, while I’m here, I should point out that he is also in sync with his time and place.

I hate that asshole.


4 thoughts on “Impostor Syndrome & The Dunning–Kruger Effect

  1. Pingback: Being Intelligent is Not Fun | PhDammit

  2. Pingback: Эффект Данинга-Крюгера | Sceptic lawyer

  3. Excellent post. I am a PhD student too and it is very good to know that I’m not alone, both in feeling like a complete imposter and in thinking that the persona that we have to portray in the hope that some day we will have managed to fake it until we become it is complete bullshit.

    • Thanks for the response, and my condolences to you with respect to being a PhD student. 😉

      I’ve actually come back here to say that, after completing the first three chapters of my dissertation and subsequently finding that my adviser and I were worlds apart in our thinking, I have moved out/on/away.

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