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Thread: Impostor Syndrome

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    Scala Mountains Resonance's Avatar
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    Impostor Syndrome

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome
    (Not, as the name might initially suggest, the Capgras delusion)

    Impostor Syndrome is a remarkably common phenomenon where highly qualified people feel like frauds who don't deserve their achievements.

    > "I can't believe I made it past the interviews. Surely someone will figure out I'm wildly incompetent and fire me soon!"
    > "Everyone here is so much smarter than me. I got in on a fluke."

    It seems to be especially common in high-achieving women and people who may have been the target of affirmative action programs - believing that they were hired/selected/etc to promote workplace diversity, instead of for their competence (which is of course a necessity).

    Graduate students and scientists beginning tenure track positions (of both genders) also frequently report similar feelings.

    The treatment, luckily, is simple: recognize that it is an illusion, and stop thinking that way. Well, not quite that simple. But that's the gist of it.


    I personally used to feel like this pretty often, but then I made a thing and I couldn't deny that it was pretty awesome when someone smacked me upside the head (figuratively) about it.

    What about you.
    Last edited by Resonance; 09-16-2014 at 06:52 PM.
    Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

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    Senior Member Limes's Avatar
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    I do this at work all the time. I'm always attributing success to luck. It doesn't help that my team is comprised of a lot of people subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect who are quick to talk a good game, but cannot share a report for team analysis.
    I'm also likely to assume that people know what I'm talking about a lot more often than they do, especially in highly technical discussions.

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    chaotic neutral shitpost jigglypuff's Avatar
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    this applies to me but at the same time it's balanced out by the realization over time that people often do not acknowledge my skills and achievements, that even when they're not there i still have my skill and can find my own gateway to things without their approval. if anybody ever tries to make you feel shitty when you are qualified in ways they're not, they are the fraud. the problem is, that experience of being made to feel like you can't do something is easily internalized. for me, it often plays out as a back and forth. i try my best to focus on developing myself without getting distracted.

    i read an article one time about how men tend to apply to positions when they're about 60% qualified, whereas for women it's more often 100% cuz otherwise it's seen as a waste of time. the same article also said that men are more often promoted based on potential whereas women are promoted based on experience. i'd like to find this article again. i'm not very surprised by these sorts of relative differences between what men and women internalize due to socialization.

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    Scala Mountains Resonance's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Limey View Post
    I do this at work all the time. I'm always attributing success to luck. It doesn't help that my team is comprised of a lot of people subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect who are quick to talk a good game, but cannot share a report for team analysis.
    I'm also likely to assume that people know what I'm talking about a lot more often than they do, especially in highly technical discussions.
    See, that surprises me; whenever you talk about your work, you always seem to have a high level of confidence and expertise.

    I guess it's like the other extreme end of the Dunning-Kruger effect: the more you know, the more you're aware of what you don't know.

    Quote Originally Posted by tele View Post
    this applies to me but at the same time it's balanced out by the realization over time that people often do not acknowledge my skills and achievements, that even when they're not there i still have my skill and can find my own gateway to things without their approval. if anybody ever tries to make you feel shitty when you are qualified in ways they're not, they are the fraud. the problem is, that experience of being made to feel like you can't do something is easily internalized. for me, it often plays out as a back and forth. i try my best to focus on developing myself without getting distracted.
    Hm...so you're already addressing it in your own thought processes.

    Did your workplace reinforce that feeling (of being less skilled/talented than you are) before?
    Last edited by Resonance; 09-16-2014 at 07:12 PM.
    Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

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    Senior Member Limes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance View Post
    See, that surprises me; whenever you talk about your work, you always seem to have a high level of confidence and expertise.

    I guess it's the other end of the Dunning-Kruger effect: the more you know, the more you're aware of what you don't know.
    The problem is, I've met some extraordinarily gifted people, including some that were snatched up by the government right out of college (e.g. Dave Aitel)
    I will never be more than a script kiddie in my work.

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    chaotic neutral shitpost jigglypuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance View Post
    Hm...so you're already addressing it in your own thought processes.

    Did your workplace reinforce that feeling (of being less skilled/talented than you are) before?
    for a while, i assumed my managers were unhappy with my performance, which was why they weren't paying me what they said they would. they denied that when i asked. then when i actually said i was quitting, they gave me a raise. in the end, the entire experience boosted my confidence a little, so i can't say it really reinforced the feeling. imo the manager "in charge" of my shit was extremely unqualified in terms of technical knowledge, yet he sometimes treated me pretty disrespectfully, so there was also that.

    where i really feel like a fraud is in my goal to develop as a creative freelancer and try to get more work that way. i don't feel talented there, even when i've had art directors say they "absolutely love" my work. i'm quite sure i'll always feel this way, which is fine, as long as it motivates rather than paralyzes me.

    btw i have this nasty habit of correcting people when they gush about something i've done. i really tend to downplay my own achievements. this is the #1 criticism i got when i was in school. although it feels honest to me, i've had to remind myself that it can be very off putting to others, even inappropriate in contexts like school where everybody's learning from each other. it's especially inappropriate in work settings, i guess.
    Last edited by jigglypuff; 09-16-2014 at 07:55 PM.

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    Aporia Dysphoria Dirac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance View Post
    Graduate students and scientists beginning tenure track positions (of both genders) also frequently report similar feelings.
    This is me right now.

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    Strangely, I did/do identify with this. I felt this way with my job at first, but then I realized that I know as much about this stuff as anyone else there does.

    I think some people do use jargon as a way of making it seem like they know more than they really do. A lot of the "IT people" for the small businesses I talk to are like this.
    Last edited by msg_v2; 09-16-2014 at 08:04 PM.

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    chaotic neutral shitpost jigglypuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slab_Bulkhead View Post
    I think some people do use jargon as a way of making it seem like they know more than they really are. A lot of the "IT people" for the small businesses I talk to are like this.
    there are certain concepts that can only be truly understood or summed up with field-specific jargon, i've found. for myself, i have trouble picking up the words sometimes and it always makes me feel like an idiot until i get it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tele View Post
    there are certain concepts that can only be truly understood or summed up with field-specific jargon, i've found. for myself, i have trouble picking up the words sometimes and it always makes me feel like an idiot until i get it.
    I don't disagree, but there are people who assume that their experience is the sum total of all knowledge out there. "I've been doing this for five years and I never heard of that." (Really, well, I do this all day, and it works all the time...)

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