So often in my life, I feel like at any moment, I’ll be discovered as a fraud. The nasty judgmental voice in my head has much to say on the topic of me being a “jill of all trades, master of none,” given my propensity to jump from project to project like a hyperactive frog. And I very rarely feel like I’m in the 50th percentile for intelligence of people in any given room I enter, let alone the smartest. Both women and men suffer from this, though I think that due to a lot of social factors we struggle with in this culture, women struggle with it more. After all, being the smartest person in the room is hardly the #1 thing our culture expects of us.
But regardless of your gender, I think everyone can draw some solace from this post by Germany-based Astronomy postdoc Sarah Kendrew. In it, she writes:
The bottom line is that learning new things is really hard and slow work. If you’re the kind of person who gets their kicks from figuring out the immense complexities of the Universe or the planet or the human mind, it’s inevitable that there will be times when you feel overwhelmed by everything you don’t know. If you accept that it’s normal to feel this way, you can let this drive you to new ideas. Feeling stupid doesn’t have to hurt: your Impostor Syndrome is not a flaw, it’s a symptom of the fact that you’re smart, inquisitive and challenged by the unknown. That’s not something to feel bad about.
So if you’re a curious, hardworking, revolutionary-minded type like most (if not all) of the folks who read and contribute to Feministing, then it’s likely you struggle with this to one degree or another. Give yourself some permission to let go and enjoy the learning process. It doesn’t make you weak-minded or a bad feminist to admit that you don’t know something. In fact, showing that vulnerability and willingness to learn from others is a sign of strength.