Being Bad at Things Isn’t Cool

My stepfather was talking today about a friend of his who is a competitive arm-wrestler. That reminded me of something I’d tell people, back in high school: that I’d only won two arm-wrestling matches in my life, and both were against girls. The implication was that I was very weak.

I took a weird sense of pride in saying that, and I can’t really imagine why. Maybe it was a sour-grapes variety of defense mechanism.

I’ve noticed that I still do this today with my sense of direction. The truth is that I don’t have a very good sense of direction, but I find that I bring it up at times where it’s not necessary. Why? I don’t really know. It’s like self-deprecating humor that isn’t that funny.

Making these sorts of comments implies that it’s cool to be bad at things. Kids in school pretend to be bad at math, because they think that’s cool. I don’t think it’s cool to be bad at anything. It’s okay to be bad at things, but it’s perverse to take a sense of pride in that.

It’s also harmful to do these things. Am I really likely to work out and become stronger if I’m bragging at how weak I am? My sense of direction isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be, but I probably give up more quickly on trying to figure out the right way because I’m reinforcing this negative image of myself.

Be proud of the things you’re good at, be aware of those you’re bad at, but don’t be proud of them. Accept them as a starting point, improve if you’re willing to put in the effort, but don’t make them part of your self identity. There’s no benefit and it’s not cool.


Photo is my favorite Okonomiyaki chef, who runs a place called Chitose in Osaka.

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