Re-defining What We Think We’re ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ At
We’re expected to know what we’re “good” and “bad” at, although in western society it’s often frowned upon to actually bring up the positives. These two opposites are classic pillars in job interviews. “What are your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?” Only when directly asked do we feel allowed to discuss what we think we’re good at—otherwise, it can come across as bragging and arrogance.
However, in many circles it’s widely accepted and even encouraged to discuss what we’re bad at. Whether we call it self-deprecation or modesty, most people have been in situations where talking badly about ourselves is expected.
We’re supposed to wallow in complaints about how our arms are too big, our backsides aren’t big enough, we “could never run a marathon” and how envious we are of the woman with the seemingly perfect partner, kids, wardrobe, or you name it. For those in the wellness industry focusing on developing effective healthcare leadership skills, this can be especially problematic.
Whether its pursuing your MBA in healthcare management, opening a boutique gym or starting a personal training freelance gig, we both want to be a great leader but also avoid “bragging”.
Complaining helps us feel connected to others.
In reality, there’s nothing wrong with vocalizing what we don’t think we’re “good at,” but if it’s excessive or dramatically overrides vocalizing what we are “good at,” it can do a real number to our confidence and self-esteem. Remember: How you talk about yourself will be acted upon by your brain; regardless of whether it is positive or negative. If you continually vocalise what you are good at, your brain will start to move you more in this direction.
It’s All Relative
How do we learn what we’re good or bad at, anyway? Good and bad are both very subjective words. It’s almost certain that there’s someone out there who’s better looking than us (because that’s subjective, too!), richer than us, smarter than us, has better calves than us, is kinder than us, and so on.
It’s also nearly a certainty that there’s someone out there in worse shape than us, not as wealthy as us, not as intelligent as us, has less toned calves than us, isn’t as kind as us … and so on.
We learn what we’re “good” or “bad” at by comparing ourselves to others. That’s it. It’s all relative. We can’t be “good” or “bad” without comparing ourselves to other people—yet these qualities become a self-defining part of our selves. How messed up is that? Humans are naturally competitive, both with ourselves and other people.
A myriad of experiences mixed with natural character traits dictates just how competitive we are, and whether we lean more towards competing against others or ourselves. Generally, those in the fitness industry train their clients to be internally competitive. Beating your best time in a 5k is much healthier in many ways than competing with everyone else running the 5k.
There are many ways we compare ourselves to others. Some are fleeting and the other person never knows. Some are hardcore and televised for the world to see. Sometimes you may be “right” in that specific moment, like if someone beats you in chess. Yes, in that moment and in that game, they were better than you. You might think you’re a “bad” chess player in comparison now, especially if they beat you quickly.
However, there are countless reasons why this could have happened. Maybe you were more stressed than them, maybe they got better sleep than you, maybe they’ve had countless competitions and this is your first so you were nervous. You could beat them tomorrow—or not.
We also compete and compare throughout the day. That person on the treadmill next to you went longer and harder, so now they’re the “good runner” and you’re the bad one. You glimpsed someone’s abs and perceived them as tauter and more toned than yours, so now they have the “good abs” and yours are bad. Somebody else seems to constantly win radio contests, so they have “good luck” and you’ve never won, so you have “bad luck.”
We’re also heavily conditioned by society, media, our surroundings, our background and more to accept what’s good and bad. Oftentimes, it’s completely nonsense. Sometimes it’s harmful. You know “Becky with the good hair?” Not personally, of course, but you know exactly what Beyonce meant when she wrote those lyrics. “Good hair” is inherently straight without “too much” curls or kink. It grows quickly, any baby hairs are non-existent or well-controlled. Basically, it looks like a white woman’s hair.
That’s what’s considered “good hair” in western Black culture. Now how messed up is that?
Part of “health” wellness is nurturing the holistic self, and that’s a huge challenge faced by experts in the industry. They’re not only charged with a plethora of responsibilities that might range from handling the administrative duties of a clinic to working directly with patients or clients, but often end up having to help recondition cognitive structures that have been trained by society for years and even decades to think, act and compare in certain ways. Healthcare management encompasses a wide range of tasks, often starting from the inside out.
Let’s Drop These Words
“Good” and “bad” aren’t really “bad words” by themselves. “Good job!” “Having a bad day?” and other such sentiments are so common we don’t even think about them. Humans love to group things into categories, and seeing in black and white / good and bad helps us make sense of things.
It helps us make sense of the world. It helps us try to define ourselves in a messy place, and we really, really want to figure out who we are. Are we a good person? A bad person?
We’re both. We’re all enigmas. We’re not really “good” or “bad” at anything—we just see ourselves as good or bad depending on who we’ve compared ourselves to. When you’re the only one who can do a headstand in yoga class, you’re the best. You’re good at yoga! But go into a class where everyone is doing walking handstands and you can’t even hold a regular handstand, and suddenly you’re the worst. You’re “bad” at yoga just like that even though there are likely millions of people who dream about being able to achieve what you can.
This same sentiment can be applied to every part of our lives, from work in healthcare management to how well we perceive ourselves as being active in our child’s life.
Good and bad. Beautiful and ugly. Smart and stupid. The vast majority of adjectives are all relative and highly subjective. They’re useful words in certain contexts, but should not be used to define yourself. Don’t let others define you with negative adjectives, either.
Choose the positive ones, and don’t be afraid to claim them. Say them aloud. Tell people what you’re good at and share in the positives of one another instead of the negatives. Tell other people their positive adjectives, too!
Isn’t a world of people with a little higher self-esteem and more kind words better than one stewing in negativity and fear? What’s so scary about those positive words, anyway?