“So, what do you do?” UUUGGHHH! I hate that question! There are many reasons why, but the biggest one particularly for me is, if I answer with what I actually DO for a paycheck, the assumptions behind it are often misleading. “I’m a computer Forensics Expert.” Yes, I see your eyes bugging out, and your lips starting to form that OOOOOOO sound. I get it. The movies and TV have made it look like we are some sort of superhero/crime fighting/wonder geniuses. And, there really aren’t that many of us, so you don’t meet too many people who say this. So I get the OOOOOOO. The reality is, it’s not like the movies at all. Sure, it has its moments, but like many J-O-B-S it is often mind-numbing with tight deadlines, high demands and expectations.
The next assumption that often occurs is that I am somehow brilliant. I mean how can you not be frikin brilliant and be one of those???! Right? Ummmm, I was taught how to do it. So, am I smart? Here is the thing, and the big admission:
I DON’T FEEL SMART (I hear Charlie Browns voice when I say this)
It does not matter how many degrees I get, or awards, or accolades, or whatever, there is always more I don’t know (I have 2 undergrads and a masters) . There is always someone who can do it better, works harder, and IS smarter. I am continually afraid that one day everyone will realize I am NOT as smart as they all think I am.
The odd thing is I know the exact moment this started happening in my life, and I have continually battled this feeling through age 50. It was in Miss Level’s class in 4th grade. Up to that point, I was pretty much your average kid. For some reason I never knew, I got put in with the “advanced” crowd for math and science. I was the only boy, surrounded by girls, and I remember the day. We were to do some science experiment as a group, and these girls were all just going right along with the tubes, and measuring devices and graphs and writing things down and I just sat there. I was totally clueless. I didn’t know what they were doing, or the names of the tools, or why they were doing it, nor how. They were all confident and good at it, and I just sat there feeling like a moron.
I didn’t know. And the thing is, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know – and that was HOW TO SAY I DON’T KNOW – and then, how to ask for help. (it’s okay to not know, it really is!)
Sounds pretty basic doesn’t it? It seems so easy, but for me, it just wasn’t. And I know I am not alone in continually telling myself this lie. The lie that I told myself that day – “They are smart, and I am not.” It’s a lie that I have come to find, through genuine human conversations with others, that many of us tell ourselves each DAY! I found it wholeheartedly ironic that when I Googled “I’m not smart enough” that the fifth hit was this gem from Jonathan Fields.
What the hell is smart anyway??? I mean really? Intelligence? Wit? Wisdom? Experience? We have somehow in this culture put a tag on this word, and the tag is actually quite pointless. Smartness is entirely contextual. And the degree of smartness in any one thing is often perceptual. Let’s go back to 4th grade here. I really was not that adept at math and science. (I’m MUCH better now, but still, math – BLEAH!) However, outside the classroom was a bulletin board, and on it was posted the “top” stories that we wrote for writing class. Proudly, mine were often displayed there, where many of these girls were not. In context, my aptitude was much better suited to writing – Context. I was able to (at least that year) scratch away with decent grades in math and science. I learned way more from those girls than I did from the teacher. I was able to make it look like I knew – Perceptual.
We are all smarter in some things than others. Don’t discount the things you DO know. Again, culturally, we often put a higher value on things like science, or technology, or medicine. But what you have to ask yourself is what is of value to YOU!! Screw what other people may think should be of value to you. This is one of those not giving a fuck moments. This is also where Jonathan Fields advice (above) comes in – If what you value is something you can provide to others who value it, then maybe yeah, you need to work your skill set to the point where you can provide that. And just because I am a Computer Forensics Expert, it doesn’t mean I am smart. I know how to do what I do, but I don’t know how to replace a liver on a human, or diagnose a timing problem on a 72 Dodge Duster, or arrange flowers that will get an OOOOOO at a reception.
I actually just had a “discussion” via text with someone today where they were trying to convince me that this documentary was the be all and end all of the health and food world today! She was totally inspired and wowed by the amazing scientists and facts and conspiracies that were uncovered! They were so SMART! Why didn’t we know this stuff all along? I looked at it, and just the style of the documentary made my red flag go up, so I researched it. Turns out that some of what they were espousing was true. But most of what was said is really a lot of conjecture and correlation. People with degrees that were called scientists and doctors did the word making about studies and someone REALLY good at making them all look good (directors and producers) got into her emotions with music and imagery to get her to believe this stuff. These people were smart! Even an armchair skeptic like me can get fooled sometimes, but don’t believe everything you see and hear.
All this boils down to the fact that we all have humanmess (I got that word from my good friend Lori today). Whether it is our fears, our vulnerabilities, or our perceived shortcomings, we all are a bit of a mess at times. AND THAT’S OKAY! The part that is not, is when you dwell and wallow in that. The next step in this “radical self care” is getting to know yourself. Yeah, that shit. If you want to move forward, and not sit in that muck, you have to do it. It’s not as simple as just taking a good look in the mirror either. It will take time, and a whole lot of honesty and digging. Journal about it. Talk to others about it. Get in there, and see YOU. Here are two Apps that can help get you started – Strengths finder and Enneagram app. Give yourself the permission to do this, and get going. Be patient, but keep moving. Peace all!