This came up earlier today in conversation with new and old students loitering around the Centre porch, and the more I muse on it, the more true it seems. "Everyone else leads a more interesting life than I do." Everyone seated around the table agreed with this. Lives always sound better in excerpts and summaries. And there was plenty of interest in recent life around that table from this past summer: hiking in rural Romania, two weeks of an archaeological dig in southern France, a summer research assistantship working on the history of emotions, and hey, if I talk about my summer in terms of Finland, England, festivals, and food, my life sounds interesting too.
Part of it is the frequently-found inferiority complex among overwhelmed, but competitive, graduate students. If they can pass that exam, then surely I can too. If they can get into that program, than surely I'm qualified to do that. They must be so competent if they can read that in Old English! That kind of thing.
It's kind of funny, I'm no longer even at a formally competitive part of being a student. It's me against myself and my ability or desire to work on my dissertation topic. No one else is doing it. (I am so glad my research life isn't remotely like that in Possession.)