The idea that you must prove yourself thoroughly competent, adequate and achieving, or that you must at least have real competence or talent at something.
I have to admit, I don’t know how this is an irrational thought. After all, we make our living in the modern era by our skills. I just finished my semi-annual review and I was, once again, compelled by custom and work to evaluate my competencies against strict criteria. Soon after this, we will meet with our managers who will discuss our progress throughout the year and what we need to improve. My job security, chance at promotion, salary, and bonus is based on these review. It is based on my ability to perform well on my job. How can I believe that I do not have to prove myself competent?
At the same time, I think the key is “thoroughly” competent. We cannot know everything, and it would be dangerous to presume that we can. Socrates’ journey began when the oracle declared that no one was wiser than Socrates. He did not believe it, because he knew very little. Yet, he did not believe that the oracle could be wrong. As he sought out and conversed with the wise men of the world, he realized the ignorance of the supposed wise men. Even more shocking, he discovered that he knew something very powerful; he knew what he did not know!
It is perilous to think that we have all the answers. I am faced with this all the time at my job. There are so many times when I do not know the answer at work. However, with time, patience, and perseverance, I can frequently find the answers. Plus, I learn more with each new problem. There are times when I can imagine how I am going to solve anything. And yet, each time, I learn and grow. Last week, I realized how much better I would feel if I received cases to solve as an exciting challenge rather than a terrible burden. Imagine if I changed my thought pattern from, “Oh no! I don’t know anything about this! This is a nightmare!” to “This is awesome! I am going to learn so much more from this case. This is an opportunity to grow!” If I thought like that, my life would be a whole lot easier.
As for talent, this is one that is difficult for me. When I was young, I had to be the best at everything, at least when it came to things I cared about, 🙂 I dreamed, like many children, of being a famous actress or a Nobel Prize winning author. At times, I still do. Of course, I have only submitted one story for publication, and it was rejected. (Oddly enough, it didn’t hurt all that much.) On my better days, I accept the fact that I will never be a great writer.
At the same time, I rarely feel jealousy for Shakespeare, the greatest writer ever. I do not feel much envy for his talent; I feel a profound sense of gratitude that he existed at all. When I saw Timon of Athens or The Merchant of Venice, I was so thankful that Shakespeare existed, that he wrote, and that we are in possession of this great patrimony.
Perhaps these are the lessons of this irrational thought. Our worth is not tied to our talents. We must see ourselves as growing and our struggles as a natural part of this progress. Instead of being threatened by the talents of others, we should celebrate them and be grateful for the way these talents benefit us.