“Meditations on the Path of Knowledge”
I guess I set the bar a little high for myself. When I said I was zombified from work yesterday…. that was nothing. I spent my day arguing with a computer that won. I don’t have a huge topic for tonight so I am going to introduce you to a concept that I will hopefully be able to expand upon tomorrow. I was going to write about fear in general tonight, but that would be a longer post than I am capable. But I said WRITE EVERYDAY and code doesn’t count so here I go.
This is the feeling that it was a fluke that you got accepted to/or hired at someplace, and the fear that someone is going to find out that you don’t belong. This runs rampant in science, and is something I suffer from. Although it is technically not a “disorder or syndrome” it has became popularly known as such. Partially I think my issue with it comes from the “jack of all trades, master of none” saying. I have always identified with that. I have always liked to try many different things. For a time I was a musician, and then I was interested in anthropology, found out I am horrible at economics, and have only ever been “OK” at math. I have never felt that I excelled at anything. Although now that I think about it, I was convinced I wasn’t good enough to make it on the classical music scene and quit out of fear.
PhD Comics is always spot on!
As I have continued on my path both spiritually and academically to understand the world around me, I started to notice the phenomenon pictured above. The more I studied the less I thought I knew. I think that is what I really liked about Fire Lyte’s Project Pagan Enough
campaign. I felt like I knew nothing, and that I was going to be “found out” for not being pagan enough. I felt like I wasn’t coming from a place where I could even talk to the people I had found and looked up to as being CRAZY smart on the pagan front. I felt like worse than a beginner because I knew I knew nothing, and that anything I asked would sound stupid and I would be found out.
In science though I think the stakes are higher since I am employed in my field. I felt like I didn’t deserve to get into grad school. That I was in no way smart enough. I felt like I didn’t deserve to work with the people I did, and I definitely still feel like I don’t deserve the degree I got. Almost on a weekly basis I run into something that is intellectually challenging enough that it stops me in my tracks. My boss and coworkers are brilliant and I feel stupid compared to them. I come home feeling that I am not qualified to even walk in the door at work.
I would like to say that this is all in the past tense, but lets face it. I am giving a talk at the biggest conference in my field, in front of people I have always looked up to as WAY smarter than me and I am terrified. I started writing my thoughts down and have been SHOCKED that these posts (few as they are) have been so well received. I have almost a visceral reaction to the praise from them. “They must be joking, these are shit. Why would they say they like something that is so obviously simplistic and nothing new?” See? It takes me a lot to get rid of this thinking. I have to remind myself that I have high standards for my work, and that is a good thing. But, sometimes you just have to let go and trust other people, and your own work.
I think everyone suffers from the impostor syndrome to some extent. I think it is worse when the stakes are high. I think we need to put more faith in ourselves and the people around us to be able to judge our ability better than our self. I also don’t trust anyone who tells me they are smart, or knows everything, total red flags in my book. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. —Aristotle is another favorite quote of mine, and I think that simple fact leads down the impostor syndrome road. If you look around and everyone else seems to be getting something you don’t (because you can see the complexities) you feel stupid. But sometimes, that’s just because you are the smart one.
Fear and negativity have been major factors in my life, so I guess you can say “to be continued…” I do not work with the darker aspect, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know it is there. I think its dangerous with the wrong mind set, and I don’t think I am ready.
Until next time… (I’m going to pass out now….)