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TWYGA: The Blog

Artist Genevieve Barbee is creating 800 portraits of individuals and their talents. She asks each person one question: "What are you good at?". She's had a lot of different responses...

Kate Is Good At Nothing, Probably #pghGBE

Kate Is Good At Nothing, Probably

Today’s post comes from Kate Dillon of Feedback Soup, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on Blog Or Die PGH, where I draw a picture of a roadside fire that I saw on I-64 in early March.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the magnitude of my not-goodness.

I think about it when I’m cooking and accidentally burn something. I think about it when I take a day off from walking my dog. I think about it when I’m reading. I think about it when I’m trying to write. I think about it when I look at another person. I think about it right before I fall asleep - the specter of Not Good winds its unpleasant tendrils into my dreams: in them, I can’t quite drive, can’t quite see, can’t quite run. Almost, but not quite.

So, when perusing TWYGA, I knew that, for the swap, my best option would be to come up with a brief essay on something I am good at. (Know what else I’m not good at? Drawing.) Presumably, this Good Thing would be somewhat relevant to my struggling blog (man, am I not good at maintaining long-term projects).

I couldn’t think of anything.

With very minimal effort (I’m not good with motivation), though, I can come up with a lengthy list of Things I Am Not Good At. These things range from the laughably minor to the core components of what I consider to be a meaningful life. I’m not good at scrubbing dishes. I’m not good at extricating myself from awkward conversations with strangers at the bus stop. I’m not a good friend. And on, and on, and on.

Since I’m not good at sleeping, either, I often find myself falling into Wikipedia holes. You probably know what I’m talking about: you can’t remember a band’s record label, so you look it up, click on another tempting blue link, and four hours later you’re three-quarters through an article about the mythology surrounding Japanese goblins and wondering where, exactly, you went wrong with your life.

One night, I ended up on a page detailing a psychological problem called Impostor Syndrome. You may have heard of it (I hadn’t), and it often comes up in regards to careers. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you feel like an impostor. A loser. A failure. A phony, just inches away from being discovered. Everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and how to do it except you. It’s a miracle they don’t notice.

Some symptoms of impostor syndrome: you work harder in order to make sure nobody knows that you have no idea what you’re doing. You attempt to always give responses that will be received well, making you feel like a bit of a flip-flopper. You never, ever show any amount of confidence in your work or yourself, because you just don’t deserve it, do you?

Well.

This particular Wikipedia journey tossed me into the existential void that I prefer to avoid at 3 a.m. I remember being a kid, newly entered into a program for “gifted children,” and thinking that someone somewhere along the line must have made a big, big mistake. Why were people telling me I was smart? How long could I keep this ruse up? Should I even try?

I was eight.

Now, at 24, I’ve checked most of the boxes for symptoms of Impostor Syndrome. I’m not sure, exactly, where this sort of complex came from. My parents have always been loving and supportive. I whisked my way through the public school system with ease. I’ve won writing competitions. But somehow, for some reason, I’m sure it’s all sheer luck elevating me to an undeserved status. This kind of thinking, this obsession with my own Not-Goodness, has kept me stagnant in my post-high-school education and my career.

So while scrolling through TWYGA, seeing lovely, colorful portraits of people all over my fair city enjoying their hobbies, showing their confidence in themselves and stating, for all the world to see, what they’re good at, I was a bit jealous at first. These people aren’t fakers. These are real people. I am not a real person.

But then I realized that, while my issues with myself aren’t going to disappear overnight (or perhaps at all, ever), feeling less Not Good might be as simple as gathering the courage to view myself, at least in one area, as Good. It made me feel vain and selfish and fake - things that women are often accused of being when they display any sort of confidence.

(Fun fact: Impostor Syndrome affects women much more widely.)

Finally, I settled on something: research. I love research, and I love it so much that I often don’t realize I’m doing it. No matter what I’m doing, be it reading, writing, playing a game (shouts out Summoners War) or doing some sort of work, I delve into it, finding out as much as I can to be as well-informed and well-rounded as possible. I care about research. I’m interested in research. And you know what? I’m goddamn good at it.

There are probably other things I’m good at. This, however, is my starting point. I have declared myself Good. Thank you, Genevieve.