Esteemages, Self or Otherwise, part #314
I was having a wide-ranging talk with a friend last night, and I found myself quoting another friend. “There’s a part of me that lives in constant fear that other people are going to figure out that I’m just faking it. That I’m not really all grown up, et cetera.”
And he said he is continually amazed (and somewhat heartened) at how many people he thinks of as pretty accomplished confess to that feeling. “It’s sort of comforting to know I’m not the only one.”
The thing is, there’s another part of me, possibly a bigger part, that is probably the world’s most arrogant man imaginable. That part of me is absolutely convinced that there is not a single problem in the world—heck, in the universe!—that I can’t fix, if I just have the time. That part of me knows it can figure out anything, just given some time to study the situation.
And somewhere in between is a practical part of me that knows some problems are intractable. But it can only reign in the arrogant one with the argument that we have to pick our battles. We don’t have time to solve everything, and besides, we should have some fun every now and then.
I don’t completely understand how the arrogant guy and the “I don’t know what I’m doing!” guy live in the same head, but I’ve had to come to accept it.
This morning I had the following epiphany: I know that there are things I’m really good it. Even “I don’t know what I’m doing!” me knows that we are freaky good at diagnosing certain kinds of computer problems and finding work-arounds. I know it. I’m constantly doing it at work. I receive frequent compliments and expressions of gratitude from other people for helping them with these things.
But, there’s that niggling suspicion that the reason so few other people are good at it is not because it is the result of a particular talent, but more because it isn’t really that important. Everyone else secretly knows that there will always be one idiot savant who actually can fix these weird issues (or at least show you how to recover your work and make the application produce what you need). It’s not worth their time to learn how to think like this and do those things, see?
Objectively, I know that isn’t true, but this comes from that irrational part of the brain. There is always going to be that doubt that these things I’m good at aren’t anywhere near as difficult or important as they seem to me.
There’s also the fact that I don’t want to turn into the arrogant jerk all the time. There are plenty of them out there, already. So the practical me understands the value of that self-doubt. Self-esteem unchecked is bad for myself, people around me, and the world at-large. Unchecked self-doubt is pretty destructive, too. There needs to be a balance.
Acknowledge your own talents. When you do something, do it with confidence, but never forget that you can make mistakes. And when those mistakes happen, don’t despair, don’t deny, don’t ignore. Fix them.