In their 1999 paper, “Unskilled and Unaware of It,” psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger described a phenomenon in which people who lack competence in a domain will nevertheless rate themselves as highly skilled. The phenomenon became known as “the Dunning-Kruger Effect,” and most commentary has focused on the inability to recognize incompetence. But Dunning and Kruger also described an inversion of that pattern. Often, highly skilled people will underestimate their ability. In extreme cases, this manifests as “impostor syndrome.”
For years, I was among the latter group. In spite of positive feedback from peers and supervisors, I discounted my skill as a Scrum Master. My teams thrived, but I focused on my perceived deficiencies, and constantly feared being exposed as a fraud. In this Experience Report, I will discuss how I came to recognize the problem, and how I learned to accurately assess my abilities.