Our culture has an irrational view that goes something like this: ‘I must be competent and show intelligence and wisdom in everything I do’. In other words, we should be infallible, at least in the eyes of others. We must not make mistakes.
People who take on too many tasks are terribly afraid of being inferior, ignorant or less intelligent. They feel that they will be rejected if they are not good enough in certain areas of knowledge, certain skills or a certain skill. And not being good enough is so unacceptable that it causes them an awful lot of anxiety.
If we think about this, we will quickly realize that this is an absurd and counterproductive fear. It is true that possessing certain skills, qualities or wisdom is something that makes us happy. When others admire, compliment, or congratulate us on something we’ve done well, we feel very good about ourselves. We feel proud.
It’s one thing to enjoy praise, but it’s quite another if our confidence is tied to how intelligent, learned, and skilled we are. Our self-confidence should not depend on this.
Self-esteem should never depend on superficial values, physical things, intelligence, successes, achievements or the acceptance of others. These values are very easy to lose at any time and our confidence is not meant to go downhill immediately. It will make you a very vulnerable person.
There will always be someone who is more handsome than you or smarter, more learned, more successful… If your confidence and self-esteem also depend on others, you will be emotionally weak. Discomfort and not accepting yourself will take over your life.
Where does this view come from?
Unfortunately, we are taught from an early age to ‘learn hard’, ‘be someone in life’, ‘be the best’, because if we don’t do this… bad things could happen! For example: not being the smartest person in the conversation, not having a decent job, not being successful… what will others think? We would be condemned to a mediocre life! What a shame!
Imagine how a child feels when they are taught these lessons. He will grow up with the idea that he has to be number one and constantly show that he is worthy. He will decide to compete with others to ‘be the best’, instead of competing with himself to challenge himself and have fun. The child will grow up fearful and will experience it as threatening if his value is not recognized… Overwhelming isn’t it?
To dismantle a learned belief, we must provide ourselves with the arguments that will convince us that what we think is completely irrational, surreal, and absurd. Therefore, we must reject it and replace it with healthier beliefs. Some of the arguments you can use are the following:
- Intelligence is not the most important value: As we said before, whether or not being ignorant, intelligent or learned is not so important. We can also live just fine if we are not so intelligent and that does not diminish our worth as a person. The real value that matters is love. Love for life, for yourself and for others.
- We are all ignorant about something : We are all ignorant about something. Everyone just ignores different things and this is very true. A doctor may know a lot about medicine, but not have a clue about computers. An electrician may have a lot of knowledge about electricity, but he is probably pretty bad at photography…
It is true that we strive to be perfect and to know so much, until we reach this imaginary goal that does not exist. It only exists in our mind. Let’s accept what is real: we are all ignorant about an infinite number of things and there is nothing wrong with that. The world keeps spinning.
Our relationships with others will improve. By showing that we are successful, intelligent or wise we think we will win the appreciation of others and this may be true, especially when this appreciation comes from empty people who have an equally empty value scale.
Fortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who genuinely appreciate authentic people, who show themselves as they are. They appreciate people who admit that they are not perfect and good at everything, but are willing to learn with pleasure. These are the truly heroic people.
Make yourself appear ignorant and you will see that nothing bad will happen. Are you afraid of raising your hand in class for fear of appearing ignorant? Can’t you see that you won’t really be ignorant until you don’t raise your hand? These paradoxical effects are typical in psychology: out of the fear of appearing stupid, I end up becoming stupid.
We should ignore this fear that tells us that something bad will happen if we don’t know the answer to a question or if we fail. Nothing will happen, you will live. So, dare to do all those things that embarrass you or make you afraid to do them: raise your hand during class, answer questions and at the same time learn things you didn’t know before.