I'd heard of the Dunning-Kruger Effect before, but this episode of This American Life hit a little too close to home a couple times.
Here's the episode:
To make this entry easier, I'm going to use the official transcript from the episode:
Here's the main section that hit me:
Sean Cole: That's because other people can see when we're doing the Dunning-Kruger dance, but we can't. Which makes you think, why doesn't anybody say anything? When it's little stuff--your fly is down, you have stuff on your face—your real friends, and even some strangers, will tell you.
Now, I don't tend to think I've done well at anything. I think I'm a terribly incompetent guitarist and I hear faults in my singing voice practically every time I open my mouth; despite plenty of people's assurances, I didn't think I was going to finish my Master's project at all, let alone on time; as far as being a husband and father, I think I'm frighteningly negligent and unempathic; I don't market my blog, my photography, or any of my creative endeavours because I think they're worthless and nobody wants to hear me; I don't think I'm adapting to the newer models of teaching very well.
Simultaneously, I wouldn't've started the Master's program if I hadn't looked at different administrators in Smithers and thought "I can do that;" I had somebody send me a facebook message recently that basically suggested that he could understand the things I'd written here at this blog, which is a little bit of evidence that my writing is comparatively cogent to strangers; I know people enjoy my music when I show it to them; most people assure me that I'm an adequate father and husband. So no matter how much I beat myself up, most of the evidence reveals that I'm a comparatively well-adjusted person. This was what was so heartbreaking about October-December of this year: I was faced with accusations that simply didn't line up and I had no idea how to deal with them. But as I climb out of that mess, I see that I shouldn't've doubted myself in the first place, that I catered to those accusations and it ripped me apart because they just didn't make sense.
The Dunning-Kruger connection is this: I just got myself a degree in Leadership Studies and I'm totally frightened to do anything with it. I don't want to boldy go into leadership-like positions because I am afraid not of failure, but of people not telling me when I fail. I don't want to be a leader who thinks everything is going OK, and nobody has the guts to tell me that I'm incompetent. I don't want to be a Dunning-Kruger victim, even though we all fall into that camp now and then.
But I need to step forward into something. I can't afford to keep putting these ideas off. I will need to start applying for more intensive teaching positions over the coming years, but I'm frightened to do it. I've never been a leader at anything. I've rarely volunteered and never stood at the end of a board in order to arrange something. I can't think of anything I've ever influenced anybody to do. I've got myself a degree in something in which I have no experience, so I will have no idea as to when I'm being incompetent.
Now, since I don't really have a huge ego about anything, perhaps I'm less likely to fall into the Dunning-Kruger camp. Perhaps I will never delude myself into thinking I'm competent at anything. But it's still a little frightening, nonetheless.
Because I can handle being incompetent, but I really want to know if I am.
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