On the opposite end of the Imposter Syndrome

Many things have been written about Imposter Syndrome. A condition that results in lower self-confidence, and a constant fear of being called out for being a phony. But I believe that Impostor Syndrome is as natural a process as puberty. Only when you truly begin to grow and amass knowledge do you realize just how much you truly don’t know. You see and read about all these amazing people doing incredible things and you end up putting exaggerated expectations on yourself (and subconsciously start believing that everyone’s got it sorted except you). With time, patience, and a realization that maybe you’re not the dumbest person in the planet and maybe it’s okay to not be the next John Von Neumann, you slowly start getting rid of the Imposter Syndrome. And then, you meet new troubles.

In the famous Dunning-Kruger effect, almost everyone always ends up putting an emphasis on the curve between the None<->Experience section. But it’s appalling how under-discussed those who exceed the Expert mark are. What happens to their self-worth? How do they perceive the world? What is it like to truly know their field and truly feel confident of their knowledge… almost to the point of arrogance?

What happens to the people at the rightmost mark?

Some may argue that true experts are shielded from vanity and petty things because they are forever grounded by the unknowns that they are intimate with. That’s unrealistic. Humans are always prone to feelings of superiority, and those who have travelled such an arduous journey to be where they are, more so. And I do not just talk about the Einsteins, the Shannons, or the Teslas, no, I talk about them all who have achieved mastery in their craft, the artists, the carpenters, the plumbers, the writers, the farmers, everyone who knows whatever there is to know about what they do and love. (Tangentially included are those who are perfectly content with their definition of life and rise above whatever existential problems plagues others.)

Those who possess the keen eye are alas unable to close it and always remain witnessing just how much above others they truly are. Don’t get me wrong, they do indeed possess the insight to realize that there is no such thing as quantification and comparison when it comes to human beings, and those who stand tall above all else also realize that there are multiple peaks and there are many others who occupy them. They appreciate people from different fields and interests than them, realize their limitations, and are forever curious about what goes around (in fact, this curiosity is what brought them to where they are). But when one has a perfect grasp of the height, they have achieved compared to others, is it inconceivable to believe that they fall prey to hubris?

I don’t think so. I believe they do fall prey to hubris, but I also believe that they realize they do. And while realizations themselves seldom do much to prevent it, I’d argue that it’s always better to know and prepare strategies to ground oneself. Some find like-minded (and equally abled) peers who keep them in their toes, some discover disciplines where they can start anew as a novice, and others indulge in constant introspection to keep the creeping pride in check (having known enough that it’s never a good thing). But then, for some, is it even conceit, if it’s true? That’s for them to find out, I suppose.