As for feeling like a fraud: I don't fabricate data, naturally. But there's always that moment at the mass spec where you go "eh, that looks like it should be the right peak, rather than this slightly smaller, but closer peak." It's not fabricating data, but it feels like it's in the same vague region, from the same source. But I meant something more like "other people are doing your work for you, you're a burden, they're just humoring you until they're convinced you're to be got rid of."

As for incompetence: I do find it difficult to understand, for example, complex math. Homotopy groups stumped me for weeks, and I'm still not sure how I tottered through the rest of my recent math, but apparently it was satisfactory enough for a reasonably good grade for someone generally renowned as intelligent. (And it was also his last class taught here, too, says the voice. He was just being nice.) But as best I can tell, there's not a lot I just plain can't learn, can't come to terms with, can't abstract and assimilate and build on, given enough spoon-days.

As for mediocrity: one of the many things that keeps me up at night, when the anxiety is particularly bad, is the idea of never amounting to anything significant, of just being mediocre. The idea terrifies me, that I will fail to stamp my name on men's minds forever. Another is self-modifying to the point where I no longer worry about the things I worry about, and then falling prey to them. My foibles are almost sentient in their cleverness and self-preservation. They even have their own designated inner self-part.

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.