There are several things going through my head right now. First, something a former friend once said, when describing his long battle with his dissertation - that after a while it's just you and this document. And it's so isolated and lonely that you start to identify yourself with the document. Start to conflate your self-worth with the quality of the document. I think, I hope, I've managed to step back from that particular precipice today. It's not that the paper I'm working on right now feels particularly isolating; in fact, that's one of the things I've always liked about my department - I never feel like I'm going at it alone. But I did start to attach a little too much of myself to the quality of the paper.
Second, I'm a big fake. But let's be both honest and precise - I know that I'm a damn fine statistician, thankyouverymuch. But I also know my strengths and weaknesses - I'm good at analyzing data, explaining results to non-statisticians, and teaching. These skills do no necessarily a PhD student make. Somewhere along the way I've got to grit my teeth and wallow around in some theory. I know I'm not good at this, and don't particularly enjoy it, but I also know I need it sometimes. I intentionally slid over to a more applied discipline to minimize how much theory I would have to handle. On good days I can just about believe that I really can understand theory when I have to. But it makes me nervous. And the more I work on this paper, and think about the larger dissertation, the more nervous I get. What if I can't hack it? What if I'm just a particularly skilled masters-level statistician? I don't really believe that. Typing it just about broke my heart. But there's this nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps muttering about how I prefer to work with non-statisticians because they ask easy questions, the level of analytical thought required is lower, and clarity takes precedence over completeness. I know lots of people intentionally make their papers and presentations obtuse to make themselves sound and feel smarter, and I know that's just as much about feeling like an impostor as my current anxiety. But damn if I don't feel insecure about my paper specifically because it is so clear and comprehensible and readable. That somehow it can't be both those things and interesting, worthwhile research.
Blah. I don't really believe these things. I've just gotten stuck in a crappy place in my head.