First, I really admire the advice that you give on GradCafe, and you seem to have a great application. However, there is something about the message that I am getting from the blog post that is not sitting well with me, and I want to push back against. The idea that I am getting from this is that "my" achievements will be contextualized. In saying this, there is an implicit suggest that the person who has 10+ years of work experience doesn't deserve the same benefit-of-the-doubt perhaps in regards to GPA or whatever.
It matters because it is an unhealthy way of solving feelings of inadequacy. In fact, I think this kind of rationalization actually may exacerbate the distress.
The simple fact is that in our application process we are going to be assessed against people who are better than us, and no, we are not always going receive the benefit of contextualization. However, you are right in that the only thing that we can do is to package ourselves in the best way possible and to progress forward despite feeling inadequate at times. We must not follow into the trap of continually comparing ourselves to others.
I think it helps to know that many people feel inadequate and doubt themselves for all kinds of different reasons. In questionnaires, others have reported that their feelings come from things such as the following: not seeing other people who, they feel, represent their background; feeling that having to work hard for something means they are not naturally talented enough to succeed; feeling that if they are not perfect, then they are not good enough; and on and on. But, justifying their success by minimizing others is not the way forward.
For a personal example: my mentor is well connected, and there are moments when I fear that prospective PIs have taken time to talk to me just because they know my PI. My negativity trap is the tendency to think that I only am where I am because of other people. Maybe there is a grain truth to that, but in interactions, I have to stand on my own and talk about my work and interests confidently. I have to tell myself that I am good enough, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.
Something else that helps these feelings is to talk with other people about them. They are surprisingly common. An estimated 70% of people -- Yes, men can feel inadequate, too. Chances are that the graduate students, postdocs, and even your PI have experienced these feelings. Talk to them about it.
The purpose of this comment is to say that attempting to bolster our own successes by minimizing the successes of others is not a healthy or productive way to get over feelings of inadequacy, and I want to push back against this sentiment.