Don’t Confuse Familiarity with Expertise

By Jaylin Paschal

We’re living in an era where the new normal is “speaking it into existence” — or whatever. We proclaim ourselves “icons” or “moguls” in our social media bios regardless of the fact that 1) our resumes may not support that claim and 2) if it were so, it’d go without saying.

When I tweeted about this, though, I was told to “let people claim these things for themselves” and to “let them aspire to be who they want.”

And I want to make a couple things clear:

I believe in manifestation and “claiming” success as yours as much as anyone else. But,

Aspirations do not count as credentials.

We cannot confuse what we want to do with what we’ve already done. And ultimately, I think the tendency to knight ourselves with these titles is about more than passion and aspirations. I think it’s more likely our generation’s obsession with the not-so-subtle flex. We want people to know what we know, and we think we know everything. We confuse familiarity with expertise.

The best example I’ve ever heard of this mistake was in reference to toilets. All of us use toilets almost everyday, and if someone asked if we knew how a toilet worked, we’d most likely say yes. Except, truthfully, most of us have no clue of how a toilet actually works beyond pushing a lever to flush. We (most likely) know next to nothing about the plumbing, the engineering or even the simple physics of why toilet water rotates counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere. It’s a classic case of claiming knowledge where all there is is familiarity.

A personal example of this is related to web design. People ask me all the time if I know how to design websites, to which I have to answer no. I’m familiar with web design, manipulation of templates, personalization of layout or font, insertion of content — but do I know how to design a website? No. I know very little about coding and really wouldn’t know the first thing about where to even start. I have to make my services and abilities clear, as to not misrepresent my actual skill set. That’s why despite having worked on making countless sites look pretty and well-branded; despite being familiarwith web design, “web designer” will never enter my bio.

Which brings me back to my initial point of branding our social media selves as more industry-savvy than we actually are. It’s almost exclusively an issue in creative communities. You don’t see uncertified phlebotomists with that title in their bios, or law students with “Attorney” beside their name. But a communications student is likely to have something along the lines of “media mogul” posted.

And at this point in the blog post, I have to ask myself is this really an issue? Does it do any harm to call yourself an influencer when you hold no influence? To adorn yourself as an icon before having reached that status? And the reality is, unless you’re doing freelance work like myself and your bio is directly related to the work you do, no. It doesn’t really matter.

So, continue to “speak it into existence.” Empower yourself however you see fit. But also remember that the man who knows something knows that he knows nothing at all.

Jaylin PaschalComment