Incapable is not who you are; it is where you are
As I lathered shampoo all over my head, I was singing a song I had been listening to on repeat on a particular day. I eventually reached the chorus part of the song but physically started feeling my brain trying to figure something out. It was solving a problem that nestled at the back of my head for a while.
This often happens to me.
It is like someone starts vigorously knocking on my door, with a do not disturb sign hanging. Unpleasant but, in retrospect, necessary. I seem to have no choice but to let it in. And by it, I specifically mean the demand to untangle an intertwined ball of individual thought threads within which lies a potential insight.
It was about a discussion I had with a dear friend earlier in the day about imposter syndrome and how it is often all-consuming and omnipresent. As I listened intently to her story, I had a visceral reaction but felt an even stronger urge to fill her cup with warm and encouraging words. Words about how she described herself to me did not align with my perception of her and how I saw her as a capable, hardworking person.
But this is commonly known and discussed under the discourse of being a woman in the STEM fields. However, the disillusionment of our capabilities particularly captured my imagination. How much of a disconnect there is between reality and our perception of it. I remember the first time I wrestled with self-capability but, more broadly, confidence and self-belief. It was when I was trying to send three go-pros and a hand-painted climate message poster to the near-space stratosphere. Read more about how I did it here: https://www.jagritiluitel.com/post/journey-to-the-edge-of-our-planet. I realized that believing in our capabilities comes after accomplishing a set goal and is not a prerequisite to getting started. Faith and almost a delusional level of self-belief are.
But that day, as I reflected on what I said to my friend, I became more familiar with the limits of my articulation abilities. Clear-headed thinking became a distant reality as we tried to navigate the foggy landscape of fears and insecurities in an emotionally charged state.
That may be why shower thoughts have prevailed as one of the best spots for idea generation. It clears out the fog so you can think and articulate better.
What I was trying to convey to her at that moment was incapable is not who she is; it is where she was. It is not a function of her identity but of the fleeting time dimension. Just like in an amusement park, she had to hold onto the learning curve rollercoaster dearly until it was done. Then, she would be somewhere else, on the time dimension where she was capable.
This insight was hidden inside the intertwined ball of my chaotic thoughts in that particular mundane shower. I now realize this is what a growth mindset means, but I am glad I came to this conclusion on my own. Although easier said than done, I believe this applies to my life and anyone reading this.
That incapable is not who you are; it is where you are.
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