On being smart

My friend, who’s also in the same boat as me (meaning we’re living the grad student life) shared a very nice article here. If you’re unable to open the article, the article can be summarized down to this:

People who think that they are smart tend to be reluctant on tackling unknown stuffs because they are afraid that they’ll be perceived as not smart anymore

One study shows that when you compare children who are praised as being “smart” with children who are praised as being “a hard worker” (source is written in the article), then the children who are praised as being smart cope far worse when given a more challenging problem. The children who are praised as hard workers, on the other hand, are more confident and willing to attempt various methods to arrive on a solution when given more challenging problem.

I made the really stupid mistake for most of my whole life thinking that I’m smart, resulting in me being afraid to go out of my comfort zone and tackle the unknown. I was afraid that if I’m unable to really excel at something effortlessly, then I won’t be “smart” anymore. I opted to tackle problems with higher chance of succeeding compared to the more challenging ones. Which is really idiotic.

So the damage is done. Now that I’m a grad student, I need to start learning how to be able to feel “comfortably stupid”, because in research I’m supposed to push the boundary of human knowledge. And it’s a given that I’m going to feel like an idiot whenever I’m trying to push that wall. And it’s scary if I’m not used to it, really.

In the future, when I have children of my own, I will not praise my children as smart. I will praise them as hard workers.

4 thoughts on “On being smart

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