Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?

So all the non-resolution-resolutions are going quite well, except the one about blogging more. And then I had a complete emotional breakdown, for the most spurious of reasons, and I realised I needed to write some more. So here I am. 

I’ve had this half-written post on the back burner for weeks. It’s about tea bags, and maybe it will come together at some point, but for now it is neither interesting nor funny, so I’ve decided to let it be. 

Instead, I’m musing on self perception.

The other day, this image set drifted across my Twitter stream:   

You guys, this is exactly the way I see myself. (My ears, let it be noted, are fan-freaking-tastic. They are small and perfectly formed).

On a good day, this is how I feel about my body. I am fatter than is optimum, but I put vegetables in my body, and walk a bit, and have cut down on caffeine, and generally think I am doing an OK job of looking after myself. 

Some days I put a lot of French Fancies inside myself, and those days are not the best. (Although they sort of are the best, obviously).

The better I feel about my body, the kinder I am to it. Which is a weird kind of needlessly fragile Virtuous Circle, where the virtue depends wholly on existing virtuosity. It’s not entirely sustainable.

Self perception is such a weirdly powerful force. Believe you’re competent, and you will be. Believe you’re self assured, and you won’t look to others for validation.

I’m writing this from a comfortable, unfamiliar bed in north Devon. I’m in it hours earlier than is strictly necessary, because I had a crisis of confidence that saw me withdraw from the social melee. 

I’ve never wanted to smoke, socially or otherwise. Not tobacco, nor cannabis, nor anything else on offer in any given social circle. This hasn’t been a deep existential crisis; it’s just been an emotional and intellectual given. 

Why then, at 28 – a good decade after any peer pressure has taken its toll – have I suddenly had a complete emotional collapse when a spliff started circulating? Why have I put myself tearily to bed, when literally nobody cared less whether or not I wanted to partake in a toke or two?

When I was 16, I took a batch of honey biscuits to school. I called them “Happy Biscuits”, because everyone who ate them ended up smiling. My music teacher checked, in all seriousness, that there was no more questionable reason I called them “happy”. I’m still not convinced she believed me when I assured her there wasn’t.

All this to say: the way you see yourself is oddly powerful. Your self-definitions carry more weight than anyone else’s judgement could. 

I think I’ve lost my sense of self a bit recently.

I’m so used to being the smart one. Genetics and sheer luck-of-the-draw meant that in any given situation I could be fairly certain of holding my own, intellectually. I’ve spent seven years working in an industry where there were heaps of people with more savvy and business nouse than me, but few who possessed more raw book-smarts. (Not none; there were some who could have eaten me for breakfast in a battle of wits. Largely, though, I could rely on being Pretty Clever). 

Suddenly, in my new job, I’m simultaneously shedloads more intellectually fulfilled and acutely aware that I’m no longer the smartest person in most rooms. 

Literacy and grammar skills used to set me apart. Now, they’re a given. 

So what’s my USP, if the key thing I saw as a defining characteristic turns out to be completely run of the mill? 

Here are some things I know to be true: 

  • I have never been taught grammar, and do not know grammatical rules, but know instinctively when things are not right. I think Enid Blyton is responsible.
  • I am inherently messy but abhor mess.
  • I have a prominent blue vein in my lip which makes people think I am perpetually cold. This is commented upon less now that I pretty much always wear lipstick.
  • My nostrils are All Wrong and some days I would be significantly lacking in oxygen if it were not for The Transformative Power Of Nasal Spray.
  • Leggings are not trousers, no matter how comfy they are.
  • Lasagna is not a hand food. 

I have lost the thread of this post. This train of thought has become nonsense. I think I’ll stop here.

I’m back, blogpals. Happy belated new year, and all that. Moomins4lyf. 


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