My imposter syndrome

I’ve intended to write about imposter syndrome for a number of years. Since my PhD, it has become less frequent yet somehow more acute when it occurs, possibly reflecting my transition from an academic identity as ‘social theorist’ to a para-academic identity as ‘digital sociologist’. Here’s what goes through my mind when I feel like an imposter:

  1. I’m a dilettante and will eventually be exposed as one. The only reason it has yet to happen is because the siloed quality of the academy means that people in one area are impressed by the fact I know something about another area, in the process assuming I know much more than I do. I’m a beneficiary of the accelerated academy I claim to find pernicious, creating the possibility that frequently making statements about a lot of topics be conflated with intellectual significance in a more meaningful sense.
  2. The essentially shallow quality of my thought gets revealed every time I ask a question at a seminar. When I can communicate via text or have time to prepare a talk, I’m able to dress up this shallowness in the performance of profundity. When people respond positively to my talks, it’s a response to a performance I’ve cultivated rather than the content of what I’ve said. I vividly convey a sense of being thoughtful but the thought never really goes anywhere. When people realise this, the illusion will be shattered.
  3. Knowledge doesn’t accumulate within me. I incorporate shiny insights from things I read but it passes out of me, never to return. My intellectual biography is a history of fleeting fixations, converted through rigid writing routine and intellectual slight of hand into academic capital. Gender and class combine to leave this ‘range’ being read as profundity, as opposed to an inability to focus. I perfectly embody exactly what I claim to be broken about accelerated knowledge production.

5 Comments

  1. In reflecting on your post again, it is very interesting to me. In many ways I can totally identify with that feeling. But then also perhaps that’s why I haven’t identified with accelerationism.
    Four while I may not remember specific and detailed knowledge that I learn to 20 years ago, I never the less retain the general knowledge that I gained from various periods and I indeed can draw a line back to probably high school a continuous line of thought that’s been building and accumulating and my history and my structure of knowledge, so to speak, has a perfect sense to it and given particular situations I can draw upon those various sorts of knowledge is from different times in different mindsets and stuff like that.

    So. Thank you for being so honest.

    I wonder how much that kind of thinking actually goes on in your day to day and how much of it is just sometimes maybe when you’re sitting at Hom reflecting upon things?

    1. More likely to be when I ask a question at a conference and the speaker leaves me feeling that I completely missed the point, as happened on Thursday which is what prompted me to write this after thinking about doing it for a while.

      I think that’s true of me as well, really. What in a imposter-ist moment feels like a lack of accumulation feels the rest of the time as if it’s simply that some things get incorporated into my thinking so much that I can’t remember where they came from or retain a sense of them as ‘things’.

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