I took a writing class recently where one of our exercises was to write down 5 things we thought we were better at than most people. I was like whoa, there are so many people in the world. How do I even compare? Eventually, since nobody else looked as stricken as I felt, I guessed the wording was hyperbole and we only had to compare ourselves to people we know or whatever.
Still, apart from Harry Potter trivia, there aren’t that many things I consider myself superlative at. It’s not like I’m rubbish at everything, but I don’t have many stand out skills that come to mind immediately. Most people scribbled things down quickly, well prepared for self-actualization. Maybe they practised affirmations every morning in the mirror, maybe they are incredibly skilled, or maybe they’re not insecure millennials who, although over-praised as children, are terrified of seeming arrogant even when specifically told to.
Despite my discomfort at writing down my own praises, I still felt entitled to judge the other members of the class on what they chose. Of course. Because I’m an asshole.
I was surprised that a lot of people wrote “writing”. First off, we were in the Irish Writer’s Centre so I was a bit like… duh. Then again, we were all taking a class, so wouldn’t that give you pause?
I couldn’t bring myself to put “writing” on the list. It’s definitely something I’m comparatively good at, but only compared to other things I do, not to other people. I’m a better writer than I am, say, a dancer, or a water polo player (probably) but I’d rarely be the best writer in the room, wherever I am. Anyway, it seemed a little “on the nose”.
Several people also wrote “baking”. I thought that was weird. Baking is just following a recipe. It’s so hard to be bad at it. Like really, one of your MAIN skills, one of the things you are the BEST at, is not burning things? Fuck, then I guess I have skills too. I’m great at walking around and not getting hit by cars. I’m good at drinking without choking – most of the time.
One question though.
Why am I being such a dick?
Why does it bother me that people recognise and are proud of their own achievements? I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, a female thing, or an Irish thing, but I can’t be alone in this. If anyone brags about being good at something, no matter how innocuous, I know I’m not the only one who thinks, bitterly, “isn’t it well for you?”.
I’m jealous, obviously, but probably not of their skills. One person said they were a great hockey player, another worked well with horses. I couldn’t care less about hockey and horses are just… meh, so I know that I don’t envy their abilities. I just envy their self-assuredness.
I’m jealous that they can admit to being good at something, and enjoy that fact. It’s not just that I don’t want to seem arrogant, I think a part of me is afraid I’ll be challenged on whatever skill I claim to have.
“Oh yeah, you think you’re good at putting on eyeliner? Well, I have a PhD in eye makeup application so let’s see you prove yourself.” said no-one, ever, because that would be crazy.
It’s cool to be good at things. It’s cool to say you’re good at things. You don’t have to say it, it doesn’t make it more true, but you should be able to say, at least to yourself – I’m good at this. I’m talented, skilled, masterful, whatever. Nobody is going to judge you for saying it.
Except shitheads like me.
And I’m trying to be better.