I try not to be a hypocrite, so after a long talk this week with someone about the importance of admitting mistakes and not continuing to go down the wrong path, I sat down and asked myself,

Self? What mistakes have I made?

Certainly, if you can’t see any mistakes you have made, you are delusional, because everyone makes mistakes. I think the biggest, stupidest mistake I made for many years was feeling like I always had to be the smartest person in every room and everyone had to know it, by God. This was stupid for a lot of reasons. Let me enumerate them for you.

  1. I missed out on making some good friends. I worked at universities much of my life with really smart people. I was so busy trying to prove how smart I was, that statistics was harder than history or some stupid nonsense, that I missed the opportunity to get to know those people better. When I look back and think about some of my former colleagues, I think, damn, Dr. X was pretty nice and interesting. If I hadn’t been so intent on proving I was smarter, we could have had some good conversations.
  2. It hurt my career. No matter how good you are at programming, statistics, grant writing, whatever, no one wants to work with a jerk. Yes, maybe Billy Bob wasn’t as good at something, didn’t go to as good of a school, didn’t write as many articles as me. So damn what? What was the point of constantly bringing it up so I could feel like I was winning? I never got fired from anything, but I’m sure I would have gotten promoted faster if I was better at getting along with people when I was young.
  3. I was being a jerk. What if I was right and Billy Bob was marginal at his job and I was super-amazing? Again, so damn what? He had a job. He was there before me. Who died and left me the God of pointing out everyone’s inadequacies? What did I expect people to do, pass out little post-it notes to me when I came in every day saying that I win and everyone else in the department should bow down before me because I brought in $ 6 million in grant funding this year?
  4. I was often wrong. Sometimes I really was the smartest person in the room. More often than not, though, there were a lot of really smart people and some of them knew more than me about certain things and less about others. Once I finally learned to shut up and listen, I learned a lot more.

I thought I would pass along this bit of knowledge because it was a hard, painful lesson. I had my reasons for always feeling that I had to prove myself, and if you are in the same situation, I bet that you do, too.

There wasn’t a particular day when I woke up and thought, “I’m acting like an ass and I should just stop.”

Oddly, (or maybe not), the more I actually accomplished, the less I felt I had to prove I was smart, competent, whatever.

I married well – twice. You might think that I mean I was married to people who continually reinforced me, told me how brilliant I am. You’d be wrong.

Both my late husband and The Invisible Developer had this in common – they (felt) feel comfortable in their own competence. They don’t have to put anyone else down to feel important. They don’t need anyone else to tell them they are brilliant.

That’s why it’s called SELF-confidence and SELF-esteem. You get it from yourSELF .

Role modeling. After living with someone for years who was brilliant and didn’t at all feel the need for EVERYONE to acknowledge it, maybe some of that just kind of wore off.

So, anyway, that is the biggest mistake I think I made over the years. I’m probably doing something equally stupid now that I can’t see, but five years from now, I will look back and wonder what the hell was I thinking.

———-

My day job:

I make adventure games that teach stuff.

burning village

You should buy one.

If you’re already smart enough, donate one to a school, so we can all be as smart as you.

Comments

7 Responses to “My Biggest Mistake”

  1. Dan Simmons on December 6th, 2015 8:04 pm

    Dr. AnnMaria,

    Thank you for your blog; you are very much an inspiration for me. I am in Philadelphia, PA, 46 years old, single (divorced) and work at a University. Long story & maybe will share more over time on how you truly resonate with me. Thank you again for sharing your insights and experiences,

    Dan Simmons

  2. Clark Canfield on December 6th, 2015 8:32 pm

    I too suffered from this syndrome. I was so smart, that I would force feed advice to my buddies. I never knew that they would start to resent me for this, until it was too late. Being a know it all isn’t healthy. A little humility and patience goes a long way towards making and keeping friends. When I got remarried, I thought I was way smarter than my wife. Nope. Once I figured out that she was every bit my equal, our marriage improved drastically! Thank you Dr. A, this was very insightful and will hopefully help out all the smarty pants!

  3. enigmachine on December 6th, 2015 8:49 pm

    We should all try not to put people down – starting with ourselves.

  4. Jared Miller on December 6th, 2015 9:48 pm

    It certainly takes a big person to admit their mistakes, but it takes an even bigger one to put it out there for all the world to see. Very inspiring.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Slick Rick on December 7th, 2015 11:23 am

    Sad it took you so long to learn something so damn simple….Humility. My guess is that your daughters loss triggered your awakening. Hopefully both you and your daughter will be better humans as you live your life with a “bit” more HUMILITY.

  6. Mika on December 7th, 2015 1:02 pm

    AnnMaria you’re just cool women!! <3 )))

  7. Miriam Rodrigues on December 7th, 2015 4:12 pm

    Belas palavras.

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