Julia Burch attended our recent Write To Change The World seminar in New York City on March 7. She explores expertise and self-doubt:
For some years as a stay-at-home-mom, the question I have dreaded the most is “what do you do?” In response, I have gone for self-deprecation: “I’m a post-academic: my doctorate and $5 will get me a latte grande.” Or worse: “I’m a housewife.”
So the obligatory round of introductions at last Saturday’s Core Seminar made me squirm. But when they upped the ante and asked us to fill in the blanks in the following sentence: “I am an expert in ______ because ______.” I began to sweat. I fell back on my PhD and declared myself an expert on shipwreck narratives on the strength of my dissertation. By the end of the day, I had a new appreciation for the value of my expertise in that single topic. By the following day, I found myself surprised that I had failed to mention my most recent public and professional experience as a local education activist and a writing coach, and I had new ways to fill in those blanks.
I read books, news, op-eds, and blogs avidly. I have often read and thought, “I could do that, but……” BUT. I habitually stopped as if at a chasm, miles deep. That “but” marked an inexplicable self doubt. Some version of that chasm is all too common—even among the remarkable people I joined in Saturday’s seminar.
The OpEd Project invited us to attend to and explore that self-doubt; it revealed that even if there is a chasm, however deep, it is only one or two feet wide in places; and it showed us the way to start walking to cross it.