Definitely not an expert.

amateur antagonist
3 min readApr 8, 2024

What are you good at? What are you an expert on?

Do people actually have answers to these questions? My brain always stutters and freezes when I hear those words. Sure, I have a degree. Sure, I work at a company that does things. Do I feel qualified or entitled to call myself an expert in anything? No.

I think admitting to being good at something runs the risk of falling harder when you’re bad at it. I’m afraid of the vulnerability that comes with being “good” at something. Especially if it’s self-assigned. I don’t think there are many things I would openly admit to being good at, besides procrastinating and scrolling on my phone.

Maybe that’s a problem though. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but that doesn’t seem like the right way to operate.

It seems like being an expert at something should be a more formal process. A series of passed tests and a list of satisfied qualifications. Rather than an abstract, self-ascribed term.

I know it’s very colloquial and shouldn’t be taken so seriously — you shouldn’t actually have to pass an exam to safely call yourself an expert at something. But, at the same time, I don’t like throwing that term around.

I was recently talking to a friend about my writing, and he told me to write about my industry — since I’m an “expert” on it. That suggestion stunned me, since I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Sure, it’s what I do basically all day every day. But I can’t even conceive of what I would have to say about it that’s worth saying. Especially since my industry, like most others, is already saturated with so much genuine expertise (backed by actual degrees and tangible merits); it feels unnecessary, and frankly a little embarrassing, to try to dabble in that space.

I recognize that this is my own insecurity. I refuse to use the term imposter syndrome because I’ve seen that term all over every inch of every surface that could possibly contain words, and I don’t think it’s worth talking about anymore at all. That being said, I think earned insecurity is important. Believing in yourself is important, but so is not being delusional. Being an accurate judge of your abilities (and lack thereof) is more valuable then undue confidence.

I understand that my self-assessment is maybe too harsh. Maybe I am knowledgeable on some things to the extent that I might even be an expert at them — though I have no idea what those topics may be. Regardless, I think being too harsh on yourself is extremely better than being too easy on yourself.

Most people in life are going to go easier on you than they should be, because being harsh and sharing uncomfortable truths is a lot of work socially and also is unpleasant — only the people who truly give a shit about you are going to take the effort and bear through the discomfort of giving negative feedback. Obviously, you’re going to meet people in life who have an unfairly negative assessment of you, but, I imagine most people you deal with will lean towards the socially acceptable support you’re supposed to provide each other. So, on the whole, you’re already getting a skewed projection of your abilities from those around you. I think it’s good to overcorrect that with a critical self-view — that may be the best (or only) way to get a relatively accurate picture of your own abilities.

With that in mind, I’m comfortable saying I’m not an expert at anything. One day, when it’s undeniably and objectively true, maybe I’ll start calling myself an expert. But only when the evidence is so overwhelming to the point that I would be delusional to not call myself one. See you when I get there.

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