Ah. 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."

Something occurred to me while I was in the shower. Suppose for a moment I really was incompetent, and not just because I had little lab experience - I was just plain incompetent at labwork, I really was a fraud/failure/what have you, and to ignore those feelings would be critically bad. What would I expect to see in the world, that would distinguish that from "no, you'll be fine, this is what everyone goes through", and what would I expect to see differently from "no, you'll be fine, you'll actually be really good at this, good enough to ma... (read more)

1Bayeslisk7yI know of it. I was trying to avoid the term because it feels wrong, feeds the wrong, and also rationalist taboo. Also reminding myself that feeling dumb means you're learning, and feeling really dumb means you're learning a lot. Just ignoring it won't help, I don't think, and other mental issues do point to that I'm really, really badly calibrated.

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.