Maybe She’s Born With It…

No one, but no one is born an expert at anything.

I dropped out of school when I was fourteen years old. I went back and forth- starting, stopping, changing schools, adult education- you name it and I tried it. Of course, when I reflect upon the situation twenty-some-odd years later I cringe as I type the word “tried” because I don’t know if I really did try in those later years. I had a frustrating journey throughout primary school and I had very little tolerance for the high school situation. If I’m being honest, I think by the age of fourteen I was pretty well done trying.

A lot of times I think in terms of black and white. Something is or it is not. Grey areas can be tough, as I lean closer to the “all-or-nothing” mindset. I believed, when I was young, that you either were academically successful or you were not. “I’m street smart,” is what I would tell people but in all honesty, I survived my life mainly through dumb luck. My point is that it was never that I wasn’t smart or capable of learning… it was never that I wasn’t interested either. I love learning. The school system failed me, as it does so many others. To have gone on to get a degree in a field that I am passionate about, maintaining a spot on the Dean’s list throughout, shows me that it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. It was just that I couldn’t do it like THAT.

In one of my very first English courses, my professor, Eric, (who I absolutely adore) introduced herself to the class by telling us that NO ONE is born a good writer. I was shocked. Offended even. If there’s one thing I pride myself on it is the ability to get my point across using words. It’s something I’ve always regarded as a gift. I saw it as a talent.

Eric made me think twice about all of that.

I was born, perhaps, with a love for words that drew me to them as my primary form of expression. I found writing both enjoyable and “easy”. This is to say that, if you know me this will not be shocking to you, I spent a lot of time with a pen in my hand, and then after that I spent even more time sitting at a keyboard. I wrote every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and not to knock anyone over with truth but I swear that I never run out of shit to say. I’ve often said that without blogging or social media, I would have absolutely been standing on a soapbox on Burrard street.

Yes, I was born with certain traits that pulled me towards being what others call a “good” writer, but it was the time spent actively writing that made me into what I still hesitate to call “good”. What is it they say?? Ten thousand hours to become an expert? I’m 99% sure that I have passed that landmark.

No one, but no one is born an expert at anything.

What I learned that day and in many classes after was that, while I do need to work on graciously accepting compliments from people when my work does something for them, I should never enter into the dangerous zone of regarding myself as expert where it stands between myself and an opportunity to learn. When you enter a class or a setting with the mindset that you don’t need to be there, or that you’re only there for the credit because you already know all there is to know… you’re effectively placing a roadblock in front of yourself that literally only serves your ego.

I have the ability to say things in a way that usually comes across both relatable and knowledgable, but I don’t know the rules of writing or grammar off by heart. I know how to babble on in personal reflection and I’m fiercely unafraid to speak my truth. Those are virtues that help me move forward in my work but that’s really just the skeleton of the thing. I may have been blessed with the gift of expression, but there’s a hell of a lot I have yet to learn about structure and organization.

No one, but no one is born an expert at anything. I have this unrealistic idea in my head that for some reason I’m supposed to be great at everything I ever attempt to do. When I was away last winter getting my poop in a group mentally, one of the things that hit me did so while I was building a puzzle. As I worked on it, I would pick up a piece, try it in a spot, find that it didn’t fit and switch it out for a new one. I never beat myself up for trying the wrong piece. I just accepted that part of puzzle building is trying all sorts of things out before youu find that perfect fit.

Oftentimes I need a reminder of this. When my perfectionism begins to frustrate me or I’m facing unrealistic expectations of myself I try to bring myself back to these lessons.
It’s not reasonable to hold ourselves to such high standards, much higher than we would ever hold anyone else to, just as it’s not right to punish ourselves so harshly when we make mistakes.

I’ll leave you with this exercise as it’s something I’ve found helpful over the last few months:

Imagine for a second that a friend or even an acquaintance has made a pretty big mistake. It’s something that will impact you. It may be costly or time consuming to fix. You also know that this person didn’t do it purpose and we all know that mistakes happen. Can you picture in your head the things that you might say to that person?
Now imagine the same scenario, but this time the mistake was made by a child in your life. Can you imagine how you might approach this issue?
Third, I want you to really picture how you would respond to yourself having made the same mistake. If you’re anything like me this third scenario is not a pretty picture. If your first response was to kick the living shit out of yourself it’s important to take a look at that. The most important part of this exercise is coming up, so don’t flake out on me just yet…

Take a quick minute now to reflect on your responses. With the first scenario, I think most of us want to correct the mistake so that it doesn’t happen again, but we try to come at it in a compassionate and understanding way. When it comes to kids many of us take on a natural role as teacher as we explain what happened, why it happened and how we can avoid a repeat of the situation.

When we deal with others we often give away the best version of ourselves. Picturing yourself spitting vitriol and hatred, belittling or punishing someone else for a mistake, even a big one, doesn’t feel very good and it certainly isn’t a reaction to inspire growth or learning.

So why do we do it to ourselves? I mean, if being mean to myself worked to make me better at shit I would be the most talented person in the world. I’m not, and neither are you. So what’s my problem, anyway?

Oh! It’s this stupid idea that I have that I am supposed to be the best at everything I try. Well thanks to Eric I know better now.

No one, but no one is born an expert at anything.

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