"It's not spiders I dislike, just people." -Petra
Question #89018 posted on 02/21/2017 3 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Every time I reflect on an earlier time in my life, I notice that I was a complete and utter doofus. This is in relation to pretty much everything in my life: I was terrible at scientific reasoning as a freshman physics major, I couldn't interact with girls I was interested in, I was terrible at making friends, I had no common sense, etc. When I do this reflecting, I always compare it to how much better I am at all of these things now with an attitude of, "at least now I've got it going on." But then, in a few years, when I reflect on THAT time, I realize that I was a doofus then, too. So, when I was in junior high, I thought about how stupid I was as an elementary schooler and how together I was then. Then in high school, I was like, "nope, doofus. But now I've got it figured out." But then college, and then grad school, and then right now. Two questions:

1) Is this just me, or does everyone feel this way? (i.e. do you do this too?)

2) Will there ever be a time when I think I've got it all figured out and I'm more or less right? I mean, I know I'll keep learning stuff, but maybe there will come a time when I'll reflect on some past point and say, "Yeah, I know more now than before, but I wasn't a doofus then and I'm still not now." Thoughts?

-Λrchetype

-My Name Here

A:

Dear Λrchetype,

There have definitely been times when I looked back and felt like hitting myself over dumb things I did. However, I think the biggest difference between how I think about it and how you describe your thoughts about it is that A) I think you can recognize past mistakes without thinking you were a total doofus, and B) just because you haven't done the thing that made you feel like a doofus before, doesn't mean you aren't still a doofus. I think that retrospection is a lot easier than introspection, so the real trick to solving the problem you've presented will be to really get to know yourself as you are now and not blind yourself to your own faults. Introspection is really hard, and it can hurt, but without it, none of us would be able to do very much self-improvement.

-The Entomophagist

A:

Dear λrchetype,

I actually used to do this a bit more than I do now. As a freshman in high school I looked down on my significantly more awkward middle school self, and gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back for not being nearly so awkward as I used to be (probably at the same time I was awkwardly avoiding eye contact with the guy I liked). Then as a sophomore, I saw myself as so much less naive then I was as a freshman (it took until my junior year to recognize that that funny smell from the person sitting next to me was marijuana, though). This cycle continued for a couple more years.

I think this pattern of thought is pretty common, because people tend to change and progress over the years; in comparison to where they've come, where they used to be is considered trivial. And it's good to progress in such a way. I sincerely hope that I never look back at a time in my life and think to myself, "Dang, I was so much better and well-equipped to deal with things then." However, while continuing to be comparatively better, I think it's important to remember that having become better doesn't mean someone wasn't good before. Personally, I've found that I'll overemphasize my faults of the past, perhaps to highlight my current strengths and how far I've come.

There is enormous potential for everyone to improve, but no matter how much anyone progresses, no one will actually get to a point where there isn't still enormous room to improve. Because of this, I think we'll always be able to look at past selves and see a marked difference with who we were then and who we are now. But I don't think we'll always look at that past self and see only a caricature of personal weakness. It's my hope to come to a point where I'm able to honestly asses myself from the past, and in the present. 

~Anathema

A:

Dear you,

1) This is probably common.

2) Probably not for a long time. To me the great lie of adulthood is that you think adults know what they're doing but it turns out they're all just making it up and then you become an adult and you don't know what you're doing and you just have to make it up too.

~Anne, Certainly

A:

Dear Archie,

I have always been a doofus, will always think of myself as a doofus, and plan to continue being a doofus. It brings spice to life. Then again, I'm one of those people who is confused and not too excited about the prospect of being "perfect."

Thanks for using the word doofus. 

Cheers,

The Lone Musketeer

A:

Dear friend, 

1) I mean, I feel that way about present me so maybe I'm just ahead of the curve. Generally it seems like some of us are blessed with the gift of self-esteem and the rest of us have to fake it until we can wait a few months and cringe at our past selves. C'est la vie.
 
2) Maybe not. If you did, it might mean that you're not improving anymore, right? But you may feel more comfortable in your own skin and judge yourself less harshly when you make mistakes. If you like, you might practice building self confidence.
 
-Van Goff