Friday, May 13, 2011


Today felt much better than yesterday. I had my second (and final!) oral exam of the semester, and now have only one paper to write before the first year of my master’s program will officially be over. My first oral exam, for my canon law class, had gone disastrously – or so I thought. The class was titled “Marriage and the Sacraments”; we had spent the last half of the course covering marriage, and the first half covering everything else with the exception of sacred orders (ordination to the priesthood), which the professor covered in his other canon law class. We spent a significant amount of time on baptism, Eucharist, penance, and the fascinating (I am being completely serious, it is really interesting to analyze!) Canon 844…and maybe one day on anointing of the sick, if that. Guess what the professor asked me about?

Yup…anointing of the sick. I would have been better prepared to discuss anything other than anointing of the sick! Penance, great; ecumenical issues, great; marriage, bring it on. But anointing of the sick? Really?! So I groaned inwardly, and muddled through the next fifteen minutes sweating like crazy and feeling like an idiot. When I left his office, I was convinced I had failed! And of course I was kicking myself, because I had known everything was fair game – I had just bet on the wrong horse, so to speak, and was not as prepared as I should have been. Totally my fault, which really made me feel even worse.

But then, when I checked my grades yesterday – not really thinking anything would be up, but it becomes a compulsion for me this time of year – lo and behold, I had received an A in the class! Disbelief, then elation. Not that I had thought I would FAIL fail the entire course…but I had thought I would get no higher than a straight B, since the exam went so poorly. But I guess I did better than I thought; and that made me less worried that I was going to fail everything and lose my scholarship, as I feared yesterday.

When I talked with my sister last night, she asked if I had ever heard of impostor syndrome. I had – and I had already diagnosed myself with it! According to Wikipedia, it is “a psychological phenomenon [though not an officially recognized psychological disorder] 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.” Yup, that’s me. It is especially common in graduate students – yippee! I wonder if I will ever grow out of thinking I am an idiot. Probably not. But at least I have reached the point where instead of me drawing the curtain on my dreams and aspirations because I feel as though I am not capabale, I am now determined to push on and keep trying no matter what. If I am not good enough or smart enough, someone is going to have to tell me that – I will not initiate the giving-up process!

However, this syndrome, “in which competent people find it impossible to believe in their own competence, can be viewed as complementary to the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which incompetent people find it impossible to believe in their own incompetence.” I must say that I would rather be competent and not realize it than be totally incompetent and not realize that!

In any case, now I need to write my final paper -- before I leave for Maine tomorrow morning. Ten pages stand between me and "freedom" (a weekend away, followed by summer classes). Wish me luck….

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