I know this comic was posted in 2012. I hope you don’t mind me commenting on such an old one, but I really liked it. I can see this sort of thing troubling many people, and think the Dunning-Kruger Paradox is one of many fundamental flaws in the human brain that I lump together under the name ‘intuition.’ Some people don’t like that name, but I think it fits. It’s things that people either accept blindly, or they analyze them critically, most often discovering them to be wrong. But, realizing they are wrong doesn’t fix the brain. Those rational analyses don’t feel as true as intuitions. And most often, figuring out they’re wrong doesn’t do a whole lot to help you along the road to finding out what is right. Like the situation in this comic – it just bumps you a little further down the path and leads you with intuition driving you to doubt yourself. What can be done? For this situation, at least, I think I have some advice. Overall, you should strive to recognize the things that come from your intuition and strive to not follow them. Be suspicious of them, because they’re probably wrong. And in this case specifically, the solution is to find something outside yourself to gauge your talents against. You might never be able to say “I am the most competent X in the world” or even “I am more competent than most other people at X” but you CAN get to the point where you can say “my skills enabled me to do X. I expend effort doing X. I have am open to criticism and seek to improve my skills at X rather than self-consciously trying to hide my mistakes with bluster and deception.” Etc. Find things that you can’t question because they are manifestly true. Determine other things which are false about your skills, where their limits are, and take note of them. As you improve, you will be able to point to that and say to yourself “Once I could not do or had not done Y, and now I can or have. This is proof that I have become more skilled at X.” Basically, try to put as much of the burden on evaluating your skills onto concrete, objective things as possible. What you feel, and what others say about you or your work, regardless of whether it is glowing praise or damning insults, can not affect those concrete things. If you’re a writer and you get 10 articles published, then you have gotten 10 articles published in the past 10 years. And the next year you might have 15 articles published. Whether there is someone (yourself included) belittling your work, calling you a fraud, etc simply can not influence the fact that you have improved at the goal of getting articles published. It’s simply something that can’t be questioned. Those are the things that can give you rock solid confidence without the constant worry that you’re just being arrogant or self-deceptive about your own faults. I think it all comes down to asking far too vague of questions of yourself. “Am I good?” can not be answered in the vast majority of cases. There are too many definitions of ‘good’, and an infinite number of ways to not measure up. Most people can’t even say that if they DID accomplish the things they think would prove they are ‘good’ that it would be absolute proof. So ignore being ‘good’. Try to be ‘the publisher of 15 articles’ and let peoples opinions fall where they may.
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