In life, I think we all want to be considered to be an expert. Consciously or not, achieving Expert status is a goal we all seek because it means we’re validated, important, and knowledgable. Sounds great, right?
Well, here’s why I think being an expert can be a bad thing at times…
If you are an expert, then you will always try to aim for perfection. You will think a lot of yourself, and others will think a lot of you, too. This is wonderful, but at the same time, it can be paralysing.
Why? Because fear will set in. The fear of falling short. The fear of having your expert status called into question. Fear that you don’t know quite as much as you thought you did.
Let’s not confuse expert with professional, though. I think a lot of people are professionals in their chosen field, from skateboarding to philosophy. But being an expert in that field seems less…open, to me. It’s less, giving, there’s less room for more…which I’ll explain further later on.
If you’re an expert, you’re open to a lot more criticism. When someone is starting out or at least doesn’t brand themselves as an expert, there’s room for leniency. “It’s ok, they’re not an expert” and so people judge you less critically.
However, being an expert, and being known as such, means you can’t get away with mistakes or flaws as much others can. Because, well, you should know better!
I think this is why so many people have gone crazy about J.K. Rowling’s latest venture: The Fantastic Beasts series. They now expect so much from her, that any flaw is blown out of proportion because they expected more. It’s tough being the Queen of Fantasy, and heavy is the head that bears the crown.
An amateur writer, or at least someone who’s not seen as an expert yet, would be able to get away with what Rowling has done. People would be less critical.
When you are an expert, people compare you to other experts. It’s easy for the entire world to compare the works of “expert” (highly regarded) authors, for example. We compare these texts in school. However, this is done less often with amateur or intermediate authors.
As an expert, you’re in the spotlight. People care about your work and come at it with their eyes peeled. They will compare it to others, tear it apart, and question you at every stage.
Being an expert is amazing. It’s a grand achievement to have people care so much about what you do. But it’s also very difficult to deal with on a regular basis.
I think that being an expert can mean you stick to the rules more than those who are still learning. This is why some companies like hiring people with little real-life experience; it means they can then mould these individuals into the kind of employee that they want.
If you’re an expert, though, you’re sort of set in your ways. You know all there is to know. You have a way that you do things. You know the rules, and more often than not, you stick to them.
Of course, I can’t overgeneralise to all fields or things in life. However, say someone considers themselves to be an expert novelist. They’ve studied, practised, and got it down to a tee. This means that every time they come to face a blank page, they have a structured way of tackling it. They have a method and have become a well-oiled machine in getting words to paper.
But for me, that steals away from the creativity. There needs to be a certain amount of letting go of the wheel and letting the story tell itself. If you are an expert, this can be hard because you know that there needs to be a structure, theme, character Arc, and this and that; then trying to adhere to all that can stifle the creative process.
Being an expert means you know the rules and oftentimes, you follow every word. Not being an expert may mean you know fewer rules; but it definitely helps you to be more openminded, creatively free, and able to make your own rules.
When you’re an expert, you know what you know and it’s hard for anyone to convince you otherwise. Experts know what works and what has been done for years, and they often stick to it. This is not to say that experts never try new things, but I do think that they are less likely to try new things than novices or intermediates.
For example, someone who is just learning about psychological or philosophical theories would probably be more open to ideas and exploration. Their arguments, ideas, or critiques would come from a place of curiosity, personal experience, or reasoning. On the other hand, the expert in these fields would likely have arguments based on past study. They will draw their argument from theories from this person or that experiment. Their ideas are less their own.
Again, I’m not saying experts don’t entertain new ideas or have creativity. Instead, I believe they would find it harder to think outside of the neat box of knowledge that they already have (which has worked for them flawlessly for years).
Perhaps all this is just my way of making it OK that I’m not an expert at anything! But I do see the comfort and upsides to being less than an expert. So, if you’re not an expert, don’t worry. It’s probably for the best! The pressure is off, you have more freedom, and you can be more You.