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Social anxiety

How do you react when people think you’re incapable?

As a child at school, I’d get laughed at for things I said or did. At first, it was probably no more than any child would get from other children. But for some reason – maybe because I wasn’t used to the way children treat each other – I took it personally. And for some reason, because they all laughed at me – or so it seemed – I thought they must be right, that there must be something wrong with me. For some reason, I started saying or doing things I knew they’d laugh at, just because they expected it from me.

Now, an exceedingly large number of years later, I’m still doing it. No, I don’t get laughed at any more, but people think I’m incapable of doing things and I perpetuate that notion. This came to the foreground recently, when people – nice people – clearly felt that I couldn’t cook, or clear up, or ask a stranger a question, or drive. And instead of showing them that I could do these things, I let them carry on thinking what they thought and even said and did things to make them more sure of their view of me. (Except when it came to driving; I didn’t want to cause an accident!) Why? Because if that’s what they think, they must be right. That’s how my mind works. That’s how I’ve always reacted. Unintentionally.

It’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime, but I’m going to try, because I’ve had enough. Because they’re wrong and I need to show them that.

So how do you react when people think you’re incapable? Or doesn’t that happen to you?

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life.

4 replies on “How do you react when people think you’re incapable?”

Most times I underestimate my abilities. I think it happens because of 2 reasons: my upbringing and being a woman. Not all women do this, but most. We don’t push ourselves enough and we don’t always ask for what we are worth. However, I learned to move on when sometimes at work my superiors disagree with some of my ideas or reject some requests I make. It doesn’t happen because they consider me incapable, it’s just that they have different ideas of how to do certain things and the privilege to decide.

When I used to read texts that I couldn’t understand and had to re-read them a few times, I used to think I’m incapable. After being a tech writer, I realized the writing was bad, no problem with me. When people tell me I’m incapable, it’s not a nice feeling, but if the person is not important for me, I quickly move on.

I agree that as women we do tend to underestimate our abilities. Whether I let people know I am more capable than they might suspect depends on the circumstances. At work everything I achieve is down to me so if I felt underestimated I would have to say something. Outside work, it would depend on whether it was worth making a point. It can be useful if you are thought to be a useless cook because someone else then does the cooking!

Actually I have the same issue some of the time, and react the exact opposite way. If someone underestimates me I try with everything I have to prove them wrong… a few years ago a friend casually commented that I could never be a Business Architect or achieve the associated professional qualification (TOGAF) because my brain didn’t work that way… I really took that badly. Five years later I achieved the qualification and got a job as a TOGAF Certified Business Architect.

It was incredibly dull. I did not enjoy the role one single bit. Luckily I’m in a wonderful role now that I love, but I keep having to remind myself that I don’t have to do something just because someone else doesn’t think I can:-)

I’ve just noticed the date on this post – Miriam, how do you react nowadays?

Hmm… I’m not sure. There are plenty of things I don’t do and don’t have any inclination to try. I’m happy to concentrate on what I want to do.

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