Hello to all of my favorite people. It has been a long time since I have written a post and i promise that won’t be the case here on out. I have been trying to finish up my thesis writing and have hit a bit of a road block that has now allowed me to focus on other things, rather than just writing. I will update everyone probably tomorrow about what is going on. Anyway, todays topic is about feeling dumb in grad school and how grad school will always make you feel dumb. Spoilers, it is not a bad thing and you should be ok with feeling dumb.
Why you feel dumb in grad school
Let us start off with why we feel so dumb in grad school. The short answer is, because we are learning stuff that we are not familiar with. It is as simple as that. You are going to learn about subjects that you didn’t even know existed. On top of that, you are going to go into detail on those topics. Because of this, you you will be hit with a ton of new information, all at once, which can be extremely overwhelming.
feeling dumb in grad school is like playing sports
Imaging trying to learn how to play a sport and you are thrown into a professional league right away. This is very similar. You may have a background in something that is completely different than what you are going to learn in grad school. It’s like being good at baseball and being forced to play something like competitive pool. You may have the skills to be good at one thing, but you need to start from the bottom to be good at the next.
There are very intelligent people
On top of the new and difficult concepts that you will be learning, you also will feel dumb because you are around people that have been doing this for years, sometimes decades. You’ll probably experience our good friend “imposter syndrome” quite often. I highly suggest reading about that on my website (Link HERE). This is one of the major challenges that people will face, and it will make them feel so stupid. I promise you that it is part of the process and you won’t feel so dumb in grad school after a while.
Feeling dumb in grad school is good
So, now that you probably feel bad that you are in a program that makes you feel dumb, I’m sorry if I made you feel this way, we can get into why feeling dumb is great. And by great, I mean important. See, feeling dumb means that you are in a situation that you are not an expert in or know very little in. Grad school is all about this. What is the main reason that one goes to grad school? To learn how to do research, be a professional, and do the hard stuff. Each one requires doing work that not many people have ever done. You might get it wrong, but you get good at it and become a master. Because you work on things that make you feel dumb, you become the smartest in that topic. You can explore it all you want.
Dumb in research
For those that are doing research, feeling dumb should be the best possible feeling because you can learn something that no one has ever done. Not knowing about a subject is awesome because you now can learn about it and become an expert in that subject if you want to. I constantly feel dumb and that’s were my curiosity in grad school comes from. Yes, I look at papers all day and feel dumb because I can’t understand 90% of what is being presented, but that piques my curiosity and I end up looking into that subject. That’s where you learn a ton. Feeling dumb about something usually leads to the greatest discoveries.
Also, research is all about finding answers or potential answers to things. You do the research and the experiments to find out answers and sometimes those answers don’t make any sense, but at least it is out there. I constantly get data that really tests my knowledge and sometimes it makes me feel really dumb. But that’s good because it will give you motivation to find out what is going on. That could lead to some ground breaking knowledge that changes the world. I bet Nobel prize winners probably felt pretty dumb about their research.
How to feel less dumb or cope with the feeling
Feeling dumb is great for a bit. Over time, it might get a little irritating, especially if you aren’t really used to it. There are a few ways in which you can feel less dumb. But ultimately, accepting that you don’t know everything is the best thing to do. So let us start with that, acceptance.
Ok, so this is probably the best way that I found to overcome the awkwardness of feeling dumb, and that is, just accepting that i know nothing. People want to be all-knowing, and I find that to be exhausting. Most people don’t know a lot of stuff. They may be an expert in their own field, but might not know a thing about anything else. Accepting that you don’t know everything is a great way to just get over the feeling of being dumb, or at least reduce it. Instead of getting frustrated by not knowing a lot, especially when talking to something that knows a lot about another subject, spend that time absorbing what they are saying. Use it as a learning experience. So, overall, accept that you don’t know that much but try and learn as much as you can and don’t be one of those people that thinks they know everything, I despise those people.
Stay away from difficult subjects
You can always go back to your comfort zone where you know everything about the subjects you like. This is fine but the feeling of being dumb may never go away. I know people that hide in this little bubble and try and steer the subject to that so they can sound like a genius. I highly recommend not doing this.
Compassionate pep talk
I am going to tell you a secret. You are not dumb, I promise. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you this to help out. Sometime, you need to tell yourself this. In the morning, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are smart, kind, funny, beautiful, and every other adjective there is to describe the amazing person you are. In fact, go do that right now. For real, go. I’ll wait………………………Ok, you’re back? How do you feel now? Hopefully good. Sometimes you just need a good pep talk.
If you want some more ways to feel less dumb in grad school, go check out this post by the Dive Thru (link here). You know and I know that you are a smart person. Feeling dumb is part of the grad school experience. It’s a hard one to deal with, but you will overcome the feeling. Just remember to be kind, and keep looking forward. You’ve got this.