As children, we often hear the description that this girl is smart. Picks things up quickly. Does her homework and hands it in early. Tests seem to be very easy for her.
But then we grow up and enter the work world. More insecure in our new surroundings we are more unsure of ourselves. Thirty years into our work life, we feel we have learned a lot, but still feel insecure because our results haven’t matched our self-perceived (mistaken) high level of intelligence.
So what do we do? We try, without seeing it, sounding smart. Proving ourselves smart to others seems to be a great move to please ourselves and our ego.We begin to speak in big words, complex ideas, and tend to repeat the most educated piece that we recently read. We continually tell people where we worked and what we know. Why, we even tell them, all of this, when we are in a difficult situation.
We always think we know more than we do. Always.
I think a lot about, as an adult, as to what makes a person smart. Is it what they said? Is it how they act? Are the results they achieve the determining factor in deciding if they are smart?
And how do we determine if we are smart as an adult? We can’t. Yet no one told us.
We default to sounding smart. To over-complicate things. To never showing doubt. To always tell others what we know. To giving simple, right answers to complicated situations. To always offer advice without any effort towards implementing it.
A lifetime of work is needed to see how adaptable, how resilient, how effective, and how large the body of work is that the person toiled endlessly on realizing during their lifetime.
The interesting thing is that, like everything in life, there are multiple measures that don’t overlap that could describe someone as being smart in one aspect of their lives. But as an individual we can never be certain of whether, and in what aspect of our lives, we are smart.
Situations and people challenge us. They continually change. We make mistakes for we are not always right. Our energy level varies from day to day. Our focus varies as well. We are easily distracted. The discovery of a new idea from someone else, that fits, makes us feel dumb, especially when we worked hard to find something that works and couldn’t.
Quite wasting time on trying to answer the question I asked in the title. Quit sounding smart. Spend your time simplifying, being honest, showing doubt when it is there, sharing the fact that you don’t know at times and put time in to exploring and learning new things and accept your weaknesses openly.
We are both only human.
Keep your eye on moving forward in a positive direction and let someone else answer the question in the title when your life ends.