Leon Festinger, one of the brightest social psychologist of our time, was once asked, whether or not he ever felt inept. Leon’s reply, “Of course! That is what keeps you ept” (Gazzaniga, 2011). We are strapped with ineptness. Life comes at full force and we must scramble to deal with the onslaught. Facing our ineptness frightens the most courageous.
Self-awareness creates vulnerability, leaving us naked in front of an unpredictable and uncontrolled world. Personal ineptness shakes our confidence. When in contact with the energies flowing through our bodies, we may feel overwhelmed—too much awareness is paralyzing; too little is stagnating. Effective living requires a balance, allowing for personal explorations but avoiding full contact with the brutal and uncaring underworld of living. Reality will always be subjective, measured with our biases. The blur of experience is easier to swallow when colored with a little sugar and smiles.
Cognitive Protection Against Ineptness
Several studies examined patients with left frontal lobe lesions that limited their use of common defense mechanisms—denial, rationalization, or confabulation. The scientist concluded that without the softening explanations, these patients exhibited more emotional vulnerability, many of them struggled with debilitating depression. Defense mechanisms create a protective sheath preventing paralyzing overwhelm.
Successfully achieving a goal requires accurate identification of required steps and correct assessment of personal abilities. We must navigate through many hazardous obstacles during our assessments and predictions; we often overestimate our skills and underestimate the demands.
We must flexibly adjust to accommodate errant evaluations. We mustn’t ditch efforts just because the path is more difficult than planned. Many get sucked into the vortex of always planning great things but never accomplishing any of them.
We can, however, lessen the impact of surprises by improving assessments, especially of our skills and weaknesses; facing personal ineptness, while simultaneously recruiting more of our strengths.
To change the trajectory of our lives, we must have a general knowledge of where we stand. We need an intimate relationship with self—keenly aware of feelings and habits (see Know Thyself). Reality based self-knowledge assists with accurately predicting potential failings. When we blame outside forces for failures, we protect our egos, maintaining confidence to keep plugging along; but if the actual cause for a failure is our action or inaction, the protection of our self-confidence comes at a great cost.
We can’t fix an error we don’t acknowledge exists. Recognizing when our personal relationships are superficial, our children are faltering, and our finances are a disaster may thrust us into depression, but ignoring the realities only provides temporary shelter from truths we eventually must face if we want to correct the cause. We don’t need to dodge reality for a healthy mind; we just need better skills to process some of the thorns and snags of reality.
Self Esteem Built on Personal Deception
Self-esteem built on deception requires an ever-growing barrier to maintain the ignorance. Wrong behaviors (basic transactions) eventually meet with consequences (See Core Living Skills). When repeated behaviors continually serve the same disappointing result, the answer is obvious—stop doing the same thing. But through the blindness of subjective interpretations, we protect our fragile ego. Consequently, we ignore the obvious and continue destructive behaviors.
The misguided boldly resist helpful wisdom and instead strengthen their personal deceptions. Reality resisted, instead of enlightening, creates psychosis. A deeply entrenched mechanisms that obstructs views of reality. Lost to helpful assessments of cause and effect, allowing them to dodge responsibility by blaming others for personal failures. Self-esteem built on the flimsy foundations is destined to collapse. Self-esteem built on firmer foundations that don’t reject reality, can uncover personal weakness interfering with success and proficiently address them.
We don’t need better deceptions to escape the punch of ineptness. We need a better approach, kindly accepting imperfections, and seeking help when shortcomings are persistent. Self-esteem achieved through faulty expectations of personal perfection must be constantly held up through deceptions, blatantly ignoring faults while critically judging others. When we expect perfection, reality never satisfies. Gentle present-moment acceptance allows for realistic self-assessment and more accurate predictions of potential stumblings.
Perfection is not required. Within our limitations, we still possess seeds of greatness. We must believe success is within our reach. This hope softens fears. Past fears still exist but when wisely recognize as normal accompanying feelings of striving, we see the feelings not as signs of impending disaster.
Ineptness is Normal
We can courageously explore these normal anxieties, know the biological origins, and then refocus on positive action. Interrupting automatic impulses, creating space, and inviting some cognitive functions to the game, we can re-direct behaviors to better serve our purposes, no longer blindly charging down dead-end roads and justifying the failure by blaming others.
”We don’t need better deceptions to escape the punch of ineptness. We need a better approach, kindly accepting imperfections, and seeking help when shortcomings are persistent.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Life is challenging. Digesting the bumps of failure, with all the personal implications, is tough; but if we face adversity with courage, hope, skill and understanding, we can be victorious. Self-esteem and self-confidence accumulate from each successful endeavor, giving us a reassuring knowledge that we can face life, and be successful. While we may be inept in many areas, our strength, wisdom and courage can overcome the ineptness; we are confident that we are appropriate for life and its many challenges. We can navigate, grapple with and overcome all that comes our way.
Gazzaniga, Michael S. (2011). Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain. Ecco; Reprint edition.