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09 May 2012 @ 11:35 pm
Shadow Idol: On the question of doing things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.  
I don't self-promote much.

...says the blogger.

Well, okay, unless it's at work. Or related to work. At that point, I can wax enthusiastically about all the benefits that my work and my profession bring to the table. I can show you lots, tell you plenty, and be absolutely comfortable telling you about the strengths I have, that the system has, that the profession has, so would you please support us when we ask you to put aside a small amount of money to keep us funded?

Ask me professionally, and I can hit most of your questions out of the park. Those that I can't, I can at least put most in play, or just foul off until I get something I can hit. Occasionally I strike out, but it's rare enough that I can usually shake it off and go back to swatting the next pitch out for base hits or better.

Outside of that life, though, I'm not really one for tooting my own horn. I have conventional hobbies, like music, games, and books. Of the things I have renown for, well, most of them don't have physical manifestations. Others, well, there's always someone better, and for the most part, I've met them. When that happens, you tend to lose your frame of reference for things.

I think it goes a bit further back than that, though - lots of people run into the fact that there's someone better than they are, and it doesn't really phase them. For some of them, it inspires them to work harder. Let's spin the dial backward quite a bit, then.

Through elementary school, at the end-of-year assembly, I received the same award for many years in a row - "academic excellence". It's niceto know that people think you're brilliant, but even as a young child, I could see where this was going - typecasting. I tried to head this off at the pass as a fifth grader by specifically requesting that my award for that year not be "acadmic excellence." When the award ceremony came, I received praise for... "academic excellence and..."

I might mention that about this time, there were some new people into the school, and they had a more relaxed attitude toward scholarship. Later on, I would be told, when I was the new kid in school, that I exuded a certain amount of a superiority complex with regard to my fellows. (It culminated, actually, in a bit of a struggle where physics helped me have my attacker put himself into a fire extingusher. Nobody got hurt, thankfully.)

It was at this point that I was introduced to the idea of schadenfreude, although the actual word itself would not enter my lexicon for many years afterward. For it seemed like there were a lot of people who routinely took pleasure in the idea that I was wrong when answering questions. And then the group of gentlemen, ostensibly in a troop that was supposed to foster camraderie among its members, who liked to ask impossible or nonsensical questions, illogical followups, or deliberate misunderstandings, and then proudly proclaim their victory over my intellect. (Usually as I was trying to get to sleep.) All the while, I kept racking up the various class awards for academic excellence.

My summer baseball affairs did not necessarily result in feeling good in something physical - there was always someone better, it seemed, and I certainly didn't seem like a star as a power hitter or a fast baserunner. Or as a fireball-throwing pitcher, later on. I was generally the walking ideal of "a walk is as good as a hit" - I'd swing at the right pitches and let the bad ones go by. And I played a lot in the outfield - from what my parents and coaches told me, it was because I woud pay attention to the game, instead of being the child picking dandelions. (One double-play I was responsible for, they said, was me catching the ball and knowing where to throw it - thus, I was already making the next out while the runner was still marveling that I had caught it. Lucky me, my teammate was also on top of their game at that point.)

We'll skip high school, other than a quick mention of the fact that cynicism is a thing in high school - everyone wants their own outsider status and wants to not have outsider status. Even through university, I kept playing music and video games, and routinely kept meeting people who were routinely better than me at both. It seems like my efforts to avoid typecasting have failed to this point. Even now, people who I would expect to know better think that poking fun at me when I'm not right is a good thing, because "it's so rare" and I should be able to handle it.

There's a logical fallacy (at least, I think that's what it is) called loss aversion (or avoidance) - people, as a rule, will generally prefer safer bets, even if the odds, in the long run, favor the riskier choice - the possibility that one might lose interferes with the rational process of calculating which course of action to take to get the greatest gain. For most people, thesafer course of action is more palatable.

For someone who's feeling like they have one good thing about them, and who has already had demonstrations that people seem to enjoy it when they fail at that one good thing, the only safe place is on top. And not just on top, but on top sufficiently so that nobody can catch them, even if there are some mistakes.

So I don't self-promote much, because it gives the trolls the chance to disparage, and others the chance to ciritque, and maybe, just maybe, I'll find out that, objectively speaking, I'm not all that good. (Actually, I know this. I'm not Scalzi, nor Gaiman, nor Galenorn. I might not even be Fifty Shades of Grey.)

And I wouldn't out my own name on a love meme, unless things were really bad, because there's the possibility that I'd ask for a party and nobody would come. And doesn't it just make sense that really, if I were worth something, someone else would put my name in instead?

Have I mentioned that I tend to play many games on lower difficulty levels, that I don't like mostly luck-based games, and there are times where I feel like it's not worth the 1000 games lost to pick up the one win? The loss avoidance has crystalized into a bit of a personality tick. And that when the feeling of competence at work came crashing down, it really took hold, to the point of feeling paralyzed about doing anything for fear of the repercussions?

Yeah, hi, I'm Silver, and I'm a wreck. Probably mostly of my own making. But now things are returning to normal. Even if I still feel that it was luck and not skill that catalyzed the shift away from Doom. But every day that passes, there's even more that I'm doing at work that shows the skill has always been there. At home...gettng better. I've had other people in the group that I'm playing music with now tell me that things are actually pretty hard - lacking context, I thought the problems I was having were just due to my own lack of skill.

These days, I might even leave the difficulty setting on Normal. Mabye in the future, I'll be confident enough to put my own name in the hat, regardless of whether anyone shows up.

This has been a Shadow Idol entry for Topic 24: In Your Wheelhouse and one of the selections of Topic 25: Closer. This entry is probably also twice as long as it should be to make the same point.

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Michael: Oh Snapnebris on May 10th, 2012 07:01 am (UTC)
I might not even be Fifty Shades of Grey. Ouch.

~M~