Always interesting to read from those who are public about their ‘fears’ – once fears have been named, they can be faced, right?
Anxiety about being a fraud does seem to be an occupational hazard in academia. Ruth Barcan has written in these pages about the reasons for its prevalence – the increasing demands and complexities of the job, the stratification of the university, the insecurities of teachers and of the institutions they work for, and indeed the insecurity of higher education itself. Surely Barcan is right that a “fractured, competitive system” makes people feel overwhelmed and undermined. It often seems as if neither we academics ourselves nor others think us worthy. How can anyone finish anything in such conditions?
Yet I came to think that the final word about feeling fraudulent rests with the person who consents to that feeling. Was I victim of “impostor syndrome” or was I responsible for my fate? If I refused to take responsibility, if I gave in to my fear of finishing, then wouldn’t I make a fine candidate to join Dante’s neutrals? It was only when I learned to confront – and exploit – the deep fear that was at the heart of the project, the fear of being cowardly, that I was able to finish.
Read the full article – and a couple of interesting comments – including blaming much on the compartmentalisation of departments.