September 5, 2021

Why I’ll never call myself an “Expert.”


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Sometimes I get sick of my humility.

I feel burned out on other people’s “expertise” and advice. When did so many people decide that they know so much?

As someone who has spent my whole life dumbing myself down to make others more comfortable (a whole other article and an issue for sure), and always admitting I have more to learn, it mystifies me—the way these “experts” put themselves out there as such.

Upon transitioning out of a job, it was inadvertently disclosed to me that my replacement would be earning a higher salary than I earned. She was at least a decade younger, with just two jobs under her belt and a big fat typo on her LinkedIn profile. “Well, she has a degree,” I was told. If there ever was a summation of why the job had been wrong for me all along, there it was. I shouldn’t be working for employers who believe that words teach before experience does.

I’m not sure at what point in history an associate degree equated to no degree, but I have two of them. That’s right. Two associate degrees, zero bachelor’s degrees, many certifications, and a whole host of experience. I love learning. I just realized after the second associate degree that I didn’t fit in with society’s idea of what that should look like.

I take classes all the time. I enjoy experiencing new things and trying different skills. When something really touches me, I work on it consistently. I dedicate myself to growing with it, improving at it, and having good days and bad days with it, because that’s part of really learning. It’s the whole experience. There are subjects and skills that whet my appetite but never quite get the full attention of my main interests at the time. No matter what it is, whether I’ve been at it for 15 years or 15 days, I am inquisitive and curious. I never feel like an expert and will review the basics well into being considered intermediate or advanced. Since I truly don’t feel like an expert, I certainly don’t have the nerve to call myself one.

But many people do. How do they come to that conclusion? Do they all have bachelor’s degrees in being an expert?

I recall an instance a few years ago when I mentioned to a fellow yoga teacher that I regularly attended classes at a studio. “Oh,” she scoffed with a smug grin on her face. “I don’t pay for yoga.” This was confusing to me. She expected other people to pay her for yoga, but she felt she was above paying others for yoga. I guess she figured out that she was a full spectrum, yoga “expert.” Was I a lesser teacher because I paid for classes and admitted it?

There are many instances when I will be in a movement class of some sort and I’ll realize the teacher doesn’t, for example, know how to mirror the class. As a long-time fitness instructor and student, I do believe this is important in teaching. But I don’t know it all, do I? I never call myself an expert in mirroring the class. Maybe I would have more followers if I did.

I wonder if it’s been this way for all of time or if it’s something that became pervasive with the explosion of social media. Were there so many life coaches before Instagram? Did this many people do handstands on cliffs? If so, did those people call themselves experts? And did they have a big following that agreed with their so-called proficiency? As someone who starts from the very beginning and realizes I’m never quite done in anything, it is perplexing.

So yes, sometimes I wonder if being humble serves me. The one who earns less. The one who pays for classes. The one who is willing to repeat the basics and has two associate degrees. And still, I couldn’t feign myself an expert in anything in an attempt to undo any of it. There’s just too much more to learn.

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