Well, that's nice in principle, and easy to think, but how do you actually go convincing yourself to consistently feel it? If you have an answer, I sincerely want to know it, because I've become acquainted (doing the first labwork of my life) this summer with feeling like an absolute fraud, despite reasonable success and complete inexperience.

Well, I am not sure I had do any particular self-convincing, that's just the way I naturally feel.

Basically, I know that I'm not the best in the world by pretty much any criteria -- there are people smarter than me, stronger than me, richer than me, etc. etc. But then, why should that matter? I am not in a competition with these people. We are not fighting over some resources. Let's assume I have some global rank in, say, smartness -- if my rank changes will it affect my life in any way? No, it won't.

Things are different in a local context -- maybe you wan... (read more)

5asr7yAh. That's a different problem. I find it helpful to read memoirs of people who have been successful in the field. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman mentions a number of episodes of him feeling like a fraud or a failure, as a graduate student or junior faculty. Many other scientists and scholars report the same. Feel free to talk to grad students or faculty around you -- I would bet that most of them went through this. Most of the successful grad students I knew felt that way some of the time or most of the time. Feeling out of your depth in science (and I suspect most other competitive fields) isn't an indicator that you're doing badly -- it's an indicator that you're badly calibrated. It's a routine feeling that you should just ignore until it goes away. See also the term "impostor syndrome."

More "Stupid" Questions

by NancyLebovitz 1 min read31st Jul 2013498 comments


This is a thread where people can ask questions that they would ordinarily feel embarrassed for not knowing the answer to. The previous "stupid" questions thread went to over 800 comments in two and a half weeks, so I think it's time for a new one.