Who the hell do you think you are?
Seriously. Think about it for a second. Think about who you are and what you’re passionate about. It could be coaching, running, cooking, or restoring cars. You could be starting a new career that you’re finally into, or simply starting a new project that you’ve had on the back burner for years. You could be teetering on that defining moment where you work up enough courage to stand up for a cause, or even run for an office. Anything. Don’t think of what success would mean to you at this point, just think about the one thing you like doing or have an interest in.
Now, on a scale from one to ten — one being the worst in the world and ten being the best in the world — how awesome are you at the thing you’re passionate about or interested in? What is your talent level? Visualize on the scale where you would put yourself in relation to others already doing the same thing.
I have a secret. You’re awesome.
The scale you’ve ranked yourself on, in truth, is so expansive that comparing yourself to anyone else is completely irrelevant to what you’re passionate about.
In an article I frequently revisit, Oliver Burkeman explains that, by nature, human beings are comparers. Our happiness or sense of worth depends on feeling better off than the people directly around us. But the problem with this type of social comparison is that we’re comparing apples with oranges.
On the scale that you ranked yourself above, how you view yourself in the world of your interests and comparing it to the people around you doesn’t matter at all. If you think you’re the best at what you do, I promise you I can find someone who is better. If you think you’re the worst at what you do, I promise you I can find someone even worse.
Think of this in terms of your school or workplace, and with people — possibly in a range of demographics — who work towards a common interest or towards a common goal. It doesn’t matter if you’re entry-level or if you think you’re experienced — by nature you’ll probably compare yourself to these people.
Well guess what?
People think you suck.
When you’re starting out on anything, it doesn’t matter if you have an education or a high degree of confidence in the thing you’re most interested in. People are going to think you suck.
Take the most recent Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report for example. In it, the report details a “skills gap” between managers and recent graduates regarding their preparedness for employment after entering the workforce.
- Overall, the majority of workers (87%) feel well prepared for their job upon graduating from college. In contrast, only about half of managers (50%) feel that employees who recently graduated from college are well prepared for the workforce.
- A higher percentage of managers who are Millennials (55%) feel that recent college graduates are well-prepared compared to managers from older generations (47% Gen X, 48% Baby Boomers).
Although the report shows the perception of readiness discriminates slightly based on when managers may have started out, the bigger point is that people are always going to be critical of you to a degree, regardless of how good you are. It’s a fact. Get over it. This is the way the world works, and honestly, it’s the way the world probably should work.
When you’re starting out, know that the people who are judging you the most — who stand between you and what success means for you — suck, too.
The Harvard Business Review conducted a study analyzing organizations and the people they employ as managers or put into leadership positions — the same people who may be critical of you most (it’s their job). The study showed that organizations fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for leadership positions 82% of the time.
Sure, survey questions can lead to wonky math even for a Gallup poll, but the point is a majority of managers don’t know what the hell they’re talking about 100% of the time. In fact, if you wanted to drill down even further, of the 18% of candidates who have the right talent for leadership roles, most of their leadership qualities include skills that are intangible — charisma, organizational skills, and emotional intelligence. This means even a smaller percentage of managers or people around you don’t have the capacity to fully understand what you like to do and are completely unaware — or even uninterested — in what your strengths are or what you’re passionate about.
So there you have it. Literally no one knows what the hell they’re doing. Statistically the playing field has always been level. And now is a perfect time to work towards everything you’ve always wanted.