Before I get into this, let me just make a disclaimer here – it’s going to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet in this post, and maybe I am, just a little, but if you know me at all you’ll know that I really don’t…play…the trumpet. Buh.
I’ve been trying to teach myself how to install and use the blogging/content management system ExpressionEngine. This is not a completely arbitrary endeavour; there is a good chance we’ll be using it for our not-really-top-secret-whiz-bang writing website (read Karen’s dreams for it here) and there is also a chance I will be developing a new site for my mum’s work and I’d like to use a CMS to do that. It seems like a really cool thing to know how to do, and I agree with Karen that if you’re going to use a tool (for example, if you publish a blog) you should get to know the basic principles of how it works, even if someone else does all the heavy lifting, so to speak.
But it frustrates the life out of me because I can’t know it all straight away. I want to learn the way they learn in The Matrix, where they just get plugged into a tutorial and less than five seconds later can open their eyes and say, “I know jujitsu!”
I’m not good with learning curves of any sort. I get annoyed and impatient, and the sense that any second someone is going to call me out as a fraud increases with each hamfisted attempt I make at getting anything working. Now I know to many people, thinking about how websites work at even their most basic level is too complicated, so the fact that I can even attempt to teach myself this stuff is reasonably advanced. I’m very blessed in that I have an inquisitive mind and I like to find out how things work. But when it takes me time to learn something and work it out, there is this irrational fear that somehow all the other people who are so much more brilliant than me will pass me by (and laugh), or people will find out that I’ve been faking it all along, or they’ll look at my poor, stumbling attempts and snigger behind their hands, saying “she thinks she’s so good, but she’s such an amateur.”
Why is amateurism in the learning stages anything to be ashamed of? I don’t think anyone would actually do those above things – most of my friends are very encouraging and supportive – but that slimy voice of self-doubt keeps chattering away nonetheless.
I know of Certain Friends who are also this way, and not just in the realms of IT. We have so many good gifts – we can play instruments, we can write, we can speak in public without falling down, we can create beautiful things, we can digest complicated pieces of information, we can organise incredible events, we can cook delicious food, we can make people laugh, we can make people think, we can do so much. And yet if we don’t do it all absolutely perfectly we either feel that we’ve failed or we give up entirely.
The other aspect of this is that we don’t think we’re doing enough either. Whereas most would be content to just be able to write a good short story, or play a great song on the piano, we don’t think we’re doing enough if we don’t know how to do everything (and do it brilliantly of course). The ability to multitask is certainly a blessing, but it’s also a curse, and those of us who are good at multitasking usually find it hard to relinquish responsibility to someone else, even while wishing someone else would take it on.
I’m not sure what the answer is, I’m just musing on’t. Perhaps we need a discussion in the comments between all of us highly-talented, overachieving, overcommitted, low self-esteemers…