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imposter syndrome and learned helplessness

Remember this?
In my last journal, the same type of mentality was mentioned as imposter syndrome in that "Steal like an artist" book.

This is what wikipedia has to say about it (link):
" The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

I just couldn't help but think of some artists I know of, who happen to have a rampant case of this. It amazed me so much that my brain just stops working trying to figure out how someone dismisses their own skill so quickly.

This is related and probably part of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which:
" unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.[1]

Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. Kruger and Dunning conclude, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others"

So, here we have:

        no skill                                                        lots of skill  
too much confidence ---------------|---------------- too little confidence

I really love this quote by Bertand Russel:
" "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

The first one (no skill/super confidence) sounds a lot like simple niavity or lack of judgement. Or you believe anything is possible or easy until proven otherwise. The second one (lots of skill/no confidence) is more like being way too judgmental or imposter syndrome. Both of them share a kind of blindness to the reality of their situation. One optimistic, the other pessimistic.

In someways, not having super confidence in your skill can make you work even harder on improving that skill, but if it's too low then "I think I need to work harder on this" becomes "I'll never get this right" becomes "(i'm too dumb/untalented/whatever negative word you can think of)".  Is this starting to sound a lot like depression? You know what depression is? It's learned helplessness.

This article called "Raising Smart Kids" explains A LOT about the mindset that creates this. Here's how they went about studying it:

" Subsequent studies revealed that the most persistent students do not ruminate about their own failure much at all but instead think of mistakes as problems to be solved. At the University of Illinois in the 1970s I, along with my then graduate student Carol Diener, asked 60 fifth graders to think out loud while they solved very difficult pattern-recognition problems. Some students reacted defensively to mistakes, denigrating their skills with comments such as "I never did have a good rememory," and their problem-solving strategies deteriorated.

Others, meanwhile, focused on fixing errors and honing their skills. One advised himself: "I should slow down and try to figure this out." Two schoolchildren were particularly inspiring. One, in the wake of difficulty, pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips and said, "I love a challenge!" The other, also confronting the hard problems, looked up at the experimenter and approvingly declared, "I was hoping this would be informative!" Predictably, the students with this attitude outperformed their cohorts in these studies.

Several years later I developed a broader theory of what separates the two general classes of learners-helpless versus mastery-oriented. I realized that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different "theories" of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that's that. I call this a "fixed mind-set." Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so. Like Jonathan, such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb.

The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort, not ability, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts.

Growth oriented vs fixed. See how that pesky idea of talent or fixed traits can ruin a person mentally? I believe this is related a lot to the dunning-kruger effect mentioned above and "imposter syndrome". In both cases of having no skill (but believing you have innate skill) or having skill (but believing that it's worthless or that you can't change) you believe that it's some trait inside of you like your genes or intelligence. In both cases, you remove yourself from the picture, believing that you don't have to make any effort or that any effort you make will always end with the same result. Making effort and getting real feedback becomes really scarey and is usually avoided. I've actually seen this in people, over and over. It's like a mental plague! That one particular friend that dropped me recently on skype was of that mindset in an extremely hardcore way. Every aspect about himself he considered fixed. He even went so far as to tell me that "I" couldn't learn anything new if I haven't already accomplished it in the past. At that point I was so fed up with his bullshit that I yelled at him to shut up.

I've always believed I can learn anything I want to, given the desire and effort and so far that's proven me true. So, the bottom line is this: Believe you have a fixed innate ability or talent, then you are setup for failure at some point and it will jack with your sense of self. Believe that it's merely a lack of effort on your part and that by working harder you can change, then you will succeed. And remember kids, determinism is for the dinosaurs ^.^
Viewed: 133 times
Added: 6 years ago
6 years ago
too much info.... brain hurting........overloading...... shuting dow .................................... ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................
6 years ago
aww...poor bunny. :p
6 years ago
Thankfully though, I'm completely awesome 'and' deluded as hell,  so I've got nothing to worry about.  :D
6 years ago
Good luck with that LOL!  Nothing like a big ol' ego to show dat whirl'd what fer :D
6 years ago
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

I HATE THAT! It's very annoying
6 years ago
Oh man...you and me both. That thing really has to change.
6 years ago
Me three, for some strange reason...
6 years ago
I think I know at least one of the artists you are thinking this describes :)
6 years ago
I mean the "imposter syndrome"
6 years ago
I have this issue. It was like reading about myself. Yeah, its painful and I really hate it cause it frustrates me and those around me. It is very hard to break. I often find myself aware of it, change it for about a week only to go back to it, as if my mind forgot to be confident. So, yes, its ugly and if there was one thing that I could magically wish away it be the feeling that I can't do anything to improve.
6 years ago
Well, obviously, I'm never meant to draw.  And furries only enjoy my writing because I'm just better than the average furry writer (meaning: I have a firm grasp of grammar, and can maintain story lines and character development).  If I took my writing to a wider audience, I'd obviously suck.

That's how I used to think.  I still think like that sometimes.  In my case, those thought patterns are probably the result of an underlying mental disorder (mine's GAD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder).  So cognitive behavioral therapy and some low dose anti-depressants (yay psychiatric medication!) seem to do the trick.

I'd actually be curious to see if, at least in some cases, these types of thought patterns... hmm... I wonder if there have been studies on that... I'll go check in a bit.  XP  Sorry, ADD moment.  Anyway, I'd be curious to see if there's a correlation between these types of thought patterns ("imposter syndrome," the mindset that intelligence is fixed) and mental disorders like depression and GAD.  They certainly sound like they have many of the same cognitive symptoms of those disorders.

And I don't mean that as a disparaging comment.  I know how much having a mental disorder like depression and GAD can suck, how crippling it can be... but also how much better life can get when you can push past the stigma of mental illness and get the help you need.

Anyway, I'm rambling.  Thanks for the food for thought!  I may have found an interesting topic to study when I head on to graduate school thanks to this.  ^^
6 years ago
Didn't read the rising of smart kids part.
But that first part with the "unskill overrate themselves and skilled underrate" was hilarious.
You see it all the time in FA and IB lol

Will be reading the later after I finish my univ assignments.
6 years ago
Hooray for you bunny ^^
6 years ago

Something should also be said about the effects of Projection, and how the selfishness and/or myopia of external egos can interfere with one's talents, and the perception and development of same.
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