Why Nasty Comments Get Our Goat? We’re Competent Enough to Doubt Ourselves

The sureness of assholes and sociopaths is deflating, because those of us who are actually competent — by including myself, I may be defining myself as not—always have the essence of doubt and reflection in everything we do. When we get a comment, a reply tweet, a Facebook post, an email about something we’ve created, discovered, or invented, we take it to heart even when we should not, because the perfect assurance of the troll, griefer, or delusional strikes to the core of how we work. A positive comment or 1,000 of them is more easily cast aside, because we critique what we do to make it better. Sometimes, we undermine ourselves as a result; often, we use this process to iterate, improve, and extend. We always approximate success as a percentage of perfection, knowing we cannot achieve that platonic ideal.

Dunning-Kruger always fights Impostor Syndrome. When we are at the competent end of Dunning-Kruger, when we know enough to underrate what we know, because we know the full scope of what can be known—and that we can’t possibly know it all (which plays into Impostor Syndrome)—and we hear the voice of someone with the absolute certainty that we are wrong, misguided, or bad at our work, someone who is at the bottom of the Dunning-Kruger continuum — someone who is probably un- or misinformed or pursuing pet theories that lack the benefits of reality — then we hear the confidence we seek!

It undermines us. We want that absolutism. The absolutism that we know we can’t have. If we had it, we’d know too well that we were wrong to have it, because we know that perfect knowledge and perfect achievement are impossible.

Competent people are easily undermined because we crave the confidence of the mediocre, while also needing to disprove their bad ideas to reassure ourselves.

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