Loving to Feel Stupid

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

I love it when I feel stupid. I probably sound insane for saying it, but it's true. A couple of years ago, I too would have called myself crazy, but as always, there's more than meets the eye.

One of my favorite memories is when I first visited Brooklyn Tech. I was just an 8th grader at the time, but an 8th grader with an overinflated ego nonetheless. Leading up to that point, I had always been labeled as the “smart kid” in middle school. I thought I knew it all, and yet I felt so stupid when I walked through those doors. It still puts a grin on my face just thinking about it.

You see, Tech isn't your typical American high school. Tech is one of the most competitive high schools in NYC. Every year thousands of students take the SHSAT at a shot to get into Tech or any of the other specialized high schools in NYC. What you end up with is almost six thousand of the most talented students in the city, all crammed into a building the size of a city block. Even today, as a Tech student, it isn't hard to feel stupid in the sea of talent, let alone as an 8th grader with no accomplishments.

I felt so incredibly stupid at the time, but, for some reason, I loved it. I saw all these talented and humble students, and I aspired to be one of them. I realized that day that I was foolish to assume I knew it all.

I think this is why I love it when I feel stupid. It's not because I particularly enjoy the feeling but because it is a humbling experience. What I've grown to realize after attending Tech for the past three years is that the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know.

I guess this ties quite nicely with the Dunning-Krueger effect. Nowadays, I love to dive headfirst into topics I don't quite understand. I know that I'll get this false sense of understanding, but I always wait for that familiar feeling of stupidity. When the time comes, it's always a pleasant surprise to see just how much more I have yet to learn.

I grin at that memory from Tech not because I was stupid, but because I was smart enough to embrace that feeling. We all feel stupid at times. What's important to realize is that just because you feel stupid, doesn't mean you are stupid. We're all here to learn, so of course, there will be times where we're going to feel stupid. But don't let this feeling dissuade you from learning, it's just a sign you're getting one step closer to mastery.