Shots of Wit

A regular posting of witticisms, aphorisms, and general musings by Clifford Cohen.

Better than you…

Because someone can do something better than you does not mean they are better than you.

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When you make the mistake of confusing expertise with intrinsic worth, you give power to expertise that is never deserved. We all know that the exercise of skills is but one capability of our species. Often, the skills themselves by which we compare ourselves are arbitrary—even laughable on some level. Simply because we have identified a certain set of actions to be useful or desirable to perform does not mean that those actions are always particularly meaningful. Yet, when we cannot perform these actions as well as others, we call into question our very worth. Sure, we should all aspire to learn from the expertise of others and to excel at what we do, but when we lose perspective and begin to question our value because we cannot perform tasks as well as others, we open the door to self-recrimination and self-loathing. Next time you find yourself in such a state, ask yourself the following two questions:

  • What can I do to improve my performance irrespective of the talents of others?
  • If I am never as good as [you provide the name], can I still find enjoyment in engaging in the activity at a more modest level?

Using the performance of others as a motivator is a double edged sword: while you may find inspiration in the examples set by others, you may fixate on external standards and lose sight of both the importance of your actions to others and what you uniquely contribute to the quest.

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