Am I the only person who thinks competency can sometimes be a curse? There’s certainly a distinction between being capable and being amenable. Just because I know how to make a chocolate souffle doesn’t mean I’m willing to make one for your kid’s birthday party. (An exaggerated example, I know. I’m simply trying to make a point.)
When we’re deemed to be competent at something, others may consider us to be an expert. It’s a compliment for sure, yet it’s often undeserved. And it sometimes it can be an imposition, an inconvenience, and even an insult.
By way of a mostly fictional example, once upon a time, there was a woman we’ll call “Nancy.” Nancy made it clear that she liked to cook and bake, and her friends and colleagues knew that she had no children so they assumed she had plenty of free time. Also, Nancy was a pleaser who wanted everyone to like her. So she would sometimes offer to bake cookies for a friend’s dinner party, and she would offer to make chicken noodle soup for a sick neighbor. When the friends and neighbors complimented her on the food she delivered, Nancy was happy. Until the cookies and the soup became expected of her, and gradually Nancy felt taken for granted. She began to view her ability to cook as a curse.
Same goes for Samantha the lawyer. Any time anybody has a legal question, they turn to her. I’m sure that Jason the chiropractor, and Angela the nutritionist can commiserate. What starts out as flattering often times becomes exasperating. Apart from the obvious “just say no,” how can we avoid the curse? Or are we better off embracing it?
How to Avoid The Curse: My suggestion is to align yourself with others equally competent. “There isn’t anybody else,” you say? If you’re struggling to get everything done at work all by yourself, try delegating. Take a leadership stance and teach someone else a specific skill. Provide him/her with the information and tools to be more successful, and while you’re watching the metaphorical flower bloom, two positive side effects may occur: (1) you are lifting up another person; and (2) you are easing your own work-related stress.
How to Embrace the Curse: If you’re passionate about the areas in which you excel, then what’s the problem? I know I’m a good speller and proof-reader, so I often volunteer to help others. If they view me as the go-to, I feel flattered and honored. On the other hand, if you got your real estate license solely because both your parents are brokers and you were expected to join their team, you might want to explore Plan B. It’s practically impossible to embrace the curse if you’re not all in.
Whether you’re building up your leadership resources or nurturing your passion, maybe it’s time to rename your abilities. Instead of thinking of it as a curse, why not call yourself an expert? Sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?
Once again, Nancy, thank you for your thought-provoking article. Luckily, I’ve never had people pester me for cooking advice! (and lucky for them too!)
However, though I do have quite a bit of knowledge in computer technology, I really have not found it to be annoying or a curse when asked for help. I do enjoy helping. EXCEPT, when at Best Buy with a close friend (you know who I mean) told the Best Buy salesman that I was her “personal Geek Squad” and she did not need to purchase that service. 🙂