“If you are unambigously hopeless in an area of life, your brain gets around this by simply diminshing the importance of that skill.”
I remember this coming back and biting me in the ass. I used to work at my uncles’ nursery. One of our tasks, before the advent of machines that do it cheaper and quicker now, involved putting burlap on shrubs and sewing them using a needle and twine so the soil would hold together tightly around the root ball. I didn’t pay much mind to the quality of my sewing work, and frankly there was so much turnover of employees at the worksite that it was easy to convince myself that I was good enough at this task compared to most. I just didn’t see it as too important a skill. One day my uncles were preparing for a show where some of their shrubs would be on display. They needed the root balls to be done up to a high standard of quality and i was selected to help work on this project. As I saw some of my also chosen coworkers doing their sewing, I realized that my work was pretty inadequate compared to theirs. I meekly asked one of them to do a quick demo about how they did it. It was an amateur request, and everyone noticed. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t do any crappy work and not meet the standard. It was an embarrassing moment, and it strikes me as an example of how the vain brain can minimize the importance of a skill.
“In a final clever enhancement of this self-enhancement, we believe that our weaknesses are so common that they are really just part and parcel of normal human fallibility, while our strengths are rare and special.”
When I was a freshman in college I surpised myself by doing very well in an English class that required me to complete some writing assignments. Some upperclass English majors that I knew were stunned. I felt pretty good, having felt pretty average in most other ways compared to many of my fellow students. “maybe I ma special and my mommy was right. ”
The following year I took a higher level course with the same professor and nearly failed the course despite lots of effort. I was pretty crushed having never come close to failing in a an academic course. But I certainly seemed to be more interested in meeting and conversing with other students who said that bombing with this professor was very common, almost a rite of passage. We wanted to believe it. Whether it were really true or not, it was a comfort.
My vain brain had a hard time with that professor. The whole experience drove me a little batty actually. He happens to be a great writer himself – Franklin Burroughs, retired professor from Bowdoin College. Check him out at Amazon. I have read and really enjoyed his collection of short stories called Billy Watson’s Croker Sack.