Friday, August 4
Most of us know that my name refers to an overwhleming fear that I'm a fraud, a severe case of the imposter phenomenon.

Today, as I talked with an old flame (from high school and college) about finally being Dr. Farud, I was completely floored when he asked me, flat out, if I still felt like a fake. He did it in this, "Surely now you know that it's not all your charm and luck, and that it's actually your brains and ability that got you this far?", way. I'd forgotten how much a part of my identity "fraud" was in my life before graduate school.

I realized then that I have had this feeling my entire adult life and that it might never go away. Graduating high school wasn't enough, and college didn't change it, honors classes and degrees, awards, graduate school, a job, and ultimately a pass without revisions on my dissertation (granted by top scholars in their respective fields) has not been enough to conquer this fear.

My old flame kept on, and asked if I respected my professors, valued their opinions, thought of them as intelligent and wise, and I agreed on all fronts. Why then, would they fall victim to me - little old fraudulent me - and my fake identity?

He's right. I know he's right. But I'm afraid that instead of feeling less like a fraud, because these wise, respected people in my field think otherwise, I feel more like one. It's worse because now there are so many more people who will be exposed and humilated when the day arrives that the world discovers I'm a fraud, Dr. Fraud.

15 comments:

Clear said...

I've asked older colleagues--psychologically stable, professionally successful older colleagues--about this, and they say it never goes away, or even necessarily gets better. Enjoy!

kodachrome said...

You're right. You're a fraud.

Did that help? If not, nevermind. I'm sorry.
But really I don't get it. It seems to me that the obvious remedy is to recognize, as Clear almost says, that everyone is a fraud. (Not, everyone "feels" that way. Everyone is.) This is one of the reasons I like conferences so much. They suck. Everyone sucks. And that makes me feel great!.

fraud, in denim said...

I guess I don't believe that everyone is a fraud. I think that others struggle with feeling like it, and many of those above and beyond me in years and experience.

I do enjoy conferences for similar reasons, but my favorite part of conferences (and job interviews) is when people get loaded and any masks they wear dissipate and there they sit, exposed.

Seems sort of perverse that I have this fear of being exposed, but some sick enjoyment out of watching others (and certain others, sometimes my empathy kicks into high gear) suffer a similar fate.

Turquoise Stuff said...

Yay, finally someone wrote the imposter syndrome post!

I have also talked to successful, well-respected senior (mind you, male) academics who have confessed to feeling like a fraud. They don't walk around telling everyone, but behind closed doors on a friendly afternoon they may confess to it.

However, I think there is the opposite. There are definitely people out there who are probably quite happy with themselves and believe they deserve every bit of what they have (or more). And my theory is that a good chunk of those people are actually frauds. There is the occasional really brilliant person who is smart and knows it, but I think that's the exception.

Chartreuse Circe said...

I'm with Turq -- yay! the imposter post. Also, yes, I think you're right, Turq (do you mind that abbreviation?), that the people who don't think they are one are most likely to not have the chops.

From what I've heard (not just from male colleagues), the feeling doesn't go away, even with 250+ pubs, ever. But that there are some people who don't feel it -- not many, but some.

I think it would be interesting to see if the numbers are the same across gender. I also wonder if it relates -- in science, at least -- to girls being encouraged not to show that they are good at math and science. That is, because they've hidden it, they (we) start to doubt it.

Either way, like you, Fraud, I spend too much time doubting myself -- and feeling like I'll be exposed at any moment. It's terrifying if I think about it, and if I don't, it's still a looming cloud over me.

Of course, I have to go pretend to work, so that I can write those proposals that nobody would fund if they really knew me ....

**Question for Clear -- Can you change the comment time flag so that it also shows days? I'm travelling overseas, and it'd help if I could tell what day, not just what time, something had posted.

Turquoise Stuff said...

Chartreuse, the Turq abbreviation is fine, thanks for asking.:) I wasn't sure at first, but I've warmed up to it and shorter definitely helps. Do you have a preference among Chartreuse, Cerise, CC or other?

kodachrome said...

Turquoise Stuff, I'm so sorry! Me and my (um, tacky) Hawaiian shirts are always thinkin' the cool names are perfect. Perhaps I can fund your next project to make up for it.

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