Smart Enough

I’m the youngest of three, and there’s a 9- and 12-year gap between my brothers and me. Being the youngest was hard at time, by time I started school my brothers were in high school. Everyone knew my younger brother was brilliant. That was the role he played in the family – “the smart kid”.

Frankly elementary school bored me so everyday when mom asked how my day was I talked about friends, recess, and everything but what I was learning. I got decent grades, but nothing spectacular. During this time, I got labeled the dumb kid. I believed it through high school and into college.

I fully realize, now, that this is clearly not the case. Am I on the same level as my one brother? Nope and that’s totally okay with me. Most everyone who knows me will say I’m very smart and they like that about me.

The interesting thing about this label is that as I started my career, and was the youngest on my team, I doubted whether I was smart enough or knew enough to do the job. I felt like that little girl who was the “dumb kid”. I didn’t believe I could become an expert in anything.

Fast forward three years, I’m onto a new job, I’m more confident in what I know and what I can do. I hear through the small-town grapevine that they are struggling to replace me at my first job because they can’t find anyone who can do the job as well as I did it. Yessss!!!!

Along the way I discovered that I was smart enough to know things better than others. There were areas where I became the go-to person. People came to me for information, guidance, and solutions.

Here are 3 strategies I use to recognize that I’m smart enough:

  1. When I start doubting myself, I reflect on my successes. Remembering all that I did well helps me know I can do great things.
  2. It’s a great idea to ask a trusted friend or peer for feedback. I’ve asked peers to give me feedback on areas where I was doubting myself. Every time it’s given me a boost and things to work on. Recently I asked 5 friends for 6 words they would use to describe me. Interestingly, all included smart/intelligent in their list.
  3. Ask yourself why you are doubting yourself. What about the situation is making you uncomfortable? What do you think you don’t know? How can you learn what you need to know? You’ve gotten to this point and you can succeed on this next step.

In meetings, either big or small, was I the smartest person in the room. Maybe, probably not. Yet I was often invited to sit in on design reviews, FMEAs, root cause analysis sessions, and sent to suppliers to help them resolve issues in my area, because I was known as an expert.

Realize that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You will know some things better than others and that becomes your area of expertise. This may come from schooling, experiences, or on-the-job learning. How you’ve gotten in depth knowledge on something matters less than the fact that you have the knowledge.

When you join the meeting, in person or virtually, remember you are there for a reason. It’s likely that you have information that will add value so own your expertise.

You are smart enough to be an expert. It turns out I was smart enough, so are you.


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