If you’ve never heard of Impostor Syndrome it’s that thing where talented, hard working people doubt the quality of their work because they feel unworthy of success. When you first learn about it it can feel like such a relief – that’s what’s wrong with me, I’m not a hack, I just have imposter syndrome.
However, at some point you start to wonder if it’s really impostor syndrome. What if my work really is trash? When I feel like a hack maybe that’s because I am a hack. When I feel like my work is good, and should be published, maybe that’s just the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.
If you’ve never heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect it’s that thing where stupid people are so incompetant that they don’t know they’re incompetant. There’s even a graph to track when it’s most likely to strike. If you know nothing about a subject then you know that you know nothing but if you know a little bit you’re likely to overestimate the value and scale of your knowledge. It’s only once you gain a bit more knowledge and experience that you realise the vast scale of your own ignorance.
I propose that False Impostor Syndrome is that thing when someone gains just enough knowledge and experience to overcome the Dunning-Kruger effect, but then misidentifies the realisation that they’re not actually very good as Impostor Syndrome. This is, in fact, applying the Dunning-Kruger effect to Impostor Syndrome. It’s possible to know just enough about Impostor Syndrome to wrongly self diagnose it.
I read this all out to my beloved spouse who insists that I do not have False Impostor Syndrome but have, rather, inaccurately self diagnosed myself with it as a result of the intersection of genuine Impostor Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect.
These two intersections of Impostor Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect are horrible on the small scale but relatively benign compared to the large scale intersection. The brilliant, creative, hard-working, intelligent people succumb to Impostor Syndrome. Meanwhile, the Dunning-Kruger effect allows mediocre white guys with connections and inherited wealth to imagine themselves as geniuses. Picture me gesturing at everything in this, the year of our lord Satan, 2020.