A lot of graduate students/applicants, it seems, suffer from "imposter syndrome." Typically, these are bright, high-achieving students, who nonetheless doubt their ability, and this most likely stems from the competitive and selective nature of grad. school and academia. However, how can one tell if they're suffering from "imposter syndrome" or if they're really not cut out for graduate school/academia?
The difference that I see (between myself and these students) is that their professors believe in them, wrote them letters of recommendation, plus they have good research skills (even if they don't see it in themselves, others do). Despite doing well in my coursework (which doesn't even indicate much given rampant grade inflation), I could tell that most of my professors lacked confidence in me (at least I think). For example, when I initially applied to grad school (unsuccessfully), one of my professors wrote me a letter of recommendation that seemed almost sarcastic in its praise. For example, he described a paper I wrote as being among the "top 10 papers he's ever seen from a student in his 20 years of teaching." The paper, however, was only around 10 pages (that was the requirement), plus I used some dubious sources (i.e. newspaper and online articles etc.) because I was in a rush. (There were no requirements on sources, and I received an A on the paper, but once one gets to upper division classes, they should know to only use scholarly sources.) Thus, this couldn't have been one of the top ten papers he's ever read. (Or he's taught some pretty weak students!) (And he didn't even qualify it with "top 10 undergraduate papers," which also confirms that he was probably being sarcastic.)
This is only one example, but I can tell that others don't believe in me. So I wanted to ask if I could be suffering from imposter syndrome or if I'm one who really isn't cut out for academia? That might be too much of an individualistic question, so I'll instead ask: how can one tell if they're suffering from imposter syndrome or if they really are an "imposter?"