You are Smarter than you Think

There’s an epidemic among girls, boys, and adults of all ages. People affected by it proudly declare their perceived disabilities and needlessly berate themselves. I often hear statements like “I’m not smart enough for this,” “I’m not good at math,” or “I’m not a technical person.” Shutting out an entire field of knowledge may help you focus on other areas, but why broadcast it? Why be proud of it? Convincing ourselves that we are not qualified is a defense mechanism, but we shouldn’t let it limit us.

I’m not going to restate the age-old new-age mantra “believe in yourself,” and I’m not talking about actual disabilities. The sad reality is that intelligent people choose to inflict themselves with a handicap they believe to be real, turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even people who think they are otherwise highly capable shoot themselves in the foot by joining the cult of self-deprecation.

In fact, I’m still fighting this myself from time to time, especially in situations where I feel the impostor syndrome in full force. It’s easy to give up and blame it on some innate inability, but I learned that I’m actually better than the circumstances often make me think I am. I strive, instead, to identify the crux of the matter and target it with a precision attack, usually by learning a new skill or studying up on a topic I’m not yet familiar with.

Our always-on, in-your-face culture rewards comparative behavior and people readily fall into this trap. Some people are better than you at [name any topic], and you will never be the best at it. Social media turns this fact of life into an assault on our senses that is very difficult to ignore. Too often, people let this spiral out of control, give up on trying to compete, and label themselves a failure. Being less competitive and less of a perfectionist can do wonders and mitigate the emotional angst involved. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and good is perfectly fine in most cases. Instead of giving up, we should give up trying to be perfect.