In the room
There’s a song by Flight of the Concords called “the most beautiful girl in the room”. The song is aimed at love songs lyrics which constantly refer to a hypothetical partner as the most attractive person in the whole wide world. Probably the most memorable line of the song is, “If you were on the street, depending on the street, you’d definitely be in the top three.”
We commonly speak hyperbolically, saying things like, “This is the best take-out joint”, “This is the worst job” or “You are the kindest person” when none of these statements are very likely to be literally true. I suppose we’re just trying to find more inventive ways of saying “I like this” and “I don’t like this”. I know there’s a degree of hyperbole to these statements, but I also think that we actually tend to overgeneralise our personal experience to the wider world.
I started thinking about how I apply this to myself. There’s things that I think I’m good at because I’m usually better at it than other people I come into contact with. I put a lot of my identity into this. I am good at writing and bad at maths, I tell myself. Except, even if I am the best at some particular thing in the room, I’m almost definitely not the best at it in the world.
I put so much of my identity into what I’m good at that it hurts to think that my being good at it is largely dependant on who I’m surrounded by. Like I said, I tell myself, “I’m good at writing and I’m bad at maths” but if I went to a writer’s convention I might find that I am the worst at writing and the best at maths.
I found this at university to an extent. Everyone in the room was suddenly good at the same things that I was good at, so I didn’t really feel like the best in the room anymore. Identity-wise this has been strange because I have to remind myself that the room is not the world. I’m still good at these things, it’s just that everyone else is good at them too. I shouldn’t give up on what I’m good at just because it feels like everyone else is equally good at it.
I think the easiest way to frame it is that I should be less concerned with being the best, and more concerned with being my best.