I was in a coffee shop today called KAFKA's. How could a thoughtful conversation not occur in such a place? I met a young man who told me he had been studying the question of whether one's social capital and use of social networks affected one's ability to prepare for typhoons in the Philippines (humanodon). His findings were inconclusive.
He had just defended a PhD dissertation on this topic and was now an expert in social capital. He told me that even on the day of his defence, he felt like an imposter and feared that they would see through him and see that he was a fake.
It seems as though a lot of people feel like an imposter, tehstone.
The young man, Justin, told me that one factor contributing to the feeling of insecurity was this: the greater difference between the highest and lowest income earners in a country, that is the more unequal a society is, the greater the anxiety around negative judgements from others.
In other words, your feelings of insecurity around what you know -- even if you are an expert in the topic -- are greater the more unequal your society is.
And then he sent me this TED talk with all the data.
I watched it and wanted to share it with you.
Also, if you've read this far, please share with me here or by IM any imposter feelings you experience. Thanks.
I meant to reply to this sooner, sorry!
Justin's research sounds incredibly difficult to map, but personally I think that's a really interesting question. The research I was assisting a professor this past Fall had to do with mapping the social network of conflict resolution programs in the Boston area and honestly, I had no idea it would be so difficult. I had this idea that once I started pulling at threads, the whole thing would just unravel for me, but it did not. I can't even imagine what mapping social networks in the Philippines would entail. It's potentially SO many people!
Anyway, I have often felt like an impostor but from what I have observed in my own life, as long as I project an air of confidence, people tend not to question my competence or credentials. For example, when I met up with you at MIT, I remember someone asked me what department I was in. I was really tempted to say "robotics" or something, but instead I told the truth. A missed opportunity, I am sure.
The social capital aspect is interesting to me. I feel very comfortable at universities, because many people in my family work for universities, including my parents. I was born at a university, grew up in a university and have worked at a few of them myself. For me, this is normal and so getting a letter of recommendation from the guy who wrote my textbook is not outside of the realm of possibility.
I feel like an impostor as an adult, fairly often. I wonder sometimes if I should be doing whatever I want to be doing, instead of trying to sleep at reasonable hours, worrying about bills, talking to people about whether or not I should start a Roth IRA or do other things with what little money I have. What kind of makes it better is that the people I talk to about these feelings say that they've felt like that themselves. I feel like this has resulted in a sometimes negative outcome, as I almost never believe that people I talk to are as capable as they tell me they are. I'm happy to be surprised, but still, I think I could be taking people more seriously than I often do.