Saturday, October 24, 2015


There is a curse among professionals of all sorts and it is called the imposter syndrome.  In its simplest form it is the mistaken belief that someday everyone will discover that you present a false exterior and when that occurs your career and reputation will be lost forever.  I've seen this fear among scientists, managers, and even proclaimed experts.  It is also a curse I have carried my entire professional life.

I recall with fondness the John Clease bit where he explains that incompetent people rarely realize their incompetence.  They do so not because they are stupid but because they fail to understand how superficial is their  depth of understanding. We've clearly see this in many debates and arguments where one party or the other has little appreciation of their opponent's expertise.

The reason for the impostor syndrome is that anyone who has attained a truly high level of competence finally understands how little they know.  The incompetent, on the other hand, believes their partial knowledge is complete and little else remains to be known.  Sometimes in an argument  it is the one with the most doubts about their own expertise who gives way to the intransigent, who often has an unshakable belief in their command of the subject. The incompetent rarely fell doubt about their own certainty.

But where does that leave us who only think they have the imposter syndrome when in fact they really might be imposters? Is there an imposter imposter syndrome as well, like the foolish kid who believes everyone is amused by his antics and doesn't understand the response he gets?

Could I have a double case of imposteritis?


1 comment:

  1. So very true. And sometimes we really ARE imposters... but I won't tell if you don't.


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