Imposter Syndrome

Faking it (Sept 2012)

I know that feeling like an academic fraud is a common sensation in postgrads and junior lecturers; but how much faking it can you get away with?

To use an uncomfortable analogy – in sex-positive literature and queer theory individuals are encouraged to present the uncomfortable truth in order to facilitate discussion and ultimately allow you to come closer to what you actually desire. This theory is applied to not faking orgasms – in order to allow a more frank converation about satisfying sex; and to accepting and not apologising for your body or your preferences in order not only to create a greater degree of acceptance in the general public but also to help you live in and with yourself. So what can we imagine are the consequences of not owning up to your sense of academic inadequacy and to trying to live within academic strictures?

If as baby academics we continue to believe that we should not be where we are what does that say about the overall culture and if we do not address it how can we complain? I have read analyses of the phenomenon that suggest that one of the reasons it is so common is the fact that academic high-achievers are typically perfectionist types who are vulnerable to feeling inadequate but I think there is something more worrying at work. I think there is a culture that encourages the sort of intellectual snobbery which makes it difficult to effectively evaluate our work.

If we own up to feeling like fakes  can we open up discussion about what real would be – and in doing so make it unnecessary for others to fake it and feel more satisfied in our academic activity?
Is it possible to make a diverse range of academic (learning, writing and teaching) styles more acceptable by telling people we prefer it to be different.. that we feel uncomfortable in the current mode?

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