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7 reasons why thinking you’re an idiot increases self-awareness

On a scale from 1 to 10, how much are you afraid of being perceived as stupid?

Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to ask a question but worried about looking foolish? Do you want to be more confident in yourself but google things like “5-step guide not to be stupid”?

Whether you like it or not, there’s nothing you can do about your foolishness. It’s a fact. Contrary to common beliefs, stupidity is universal – we’re all idiots.

Let’s return to my question. A while ago, I would have answered “8”. But then I discovered that accepting you’re an idiot raises your self-awareness. We’re about to prove how.

Why thinking you’re an idiot increases self-awareness

1) You can ask questions all the time

Imagine a scenario: You’ve just arrived in a new town. You have a terrible sense of navigation, your phone is dead, and you don’t have a map. You’re going to an important meeting and every single minute is vitally valuable. But you don’t know the city – there’s no way you can go without some help.

What would you do?

The easiest solution is to stop the stranger and ask one simple  question: “How can I get there?”

But people often avoid asking questions.

That’s exactly how I missed probably the most important opportunity of my life – I couldn’t arrive at the meeting because I didn’t ask questions. Why? I didn’t want to look foolish. But this was a long time ago.

Now I know that the way I acted was stupid. But on the other hand, stupid people ask questions more easily.

Does it mean you can be an idiot and a smart person at the same time? Yes. Stupidity can co-exist with intelligence. Therefore, you can be an idiot and a smart person at the same time. How?

Asking questions about everything looks stupid. But it’s the most optimal way to gain information and become smarter. So, admitting you’re an idiot helps you ask questions without hesitation and consequently, you become more self-aware.

2) You no longer underestimate your abilities

Believe it or not, competent people are more likely to underestimate their abilities. It doesn’t matter whether they lack confidence, have a hard time understanding their skills and qualities, or feel nervous, devaluing themselves won’t do any good for their well-being.

But fortunately, that’s not the case with stupid people. Instead, foolish people tend to overestimate their abilities and think they’re more competent or clever even when they aren’t.

Psychologists call it the Dunning-Kruger effect. In simple words, it means that stupid people think they are not stupid because they’re too stupid to know how stupid they are.

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Feel confused yet? No need to, because actually, being an idiot can be a positive thing.

Do you really need modesty if accepting stupidity can help you accept your weaknesses, realize your strengths, and maybe, sometimes, even exaggerate them to feel better? I hope that you don’t.

3) Idiot people are more confident

Even if you think that you need tons of skills and great knowledge to be more confident, you’re simply wrong. Knowledge only helps you appear intelligent. And intelligence doesn’t necessarily lead to confidence.

Paradoxically, it’s otherwise.

Studies show that people who lack intellectual skills tend to be more confident while those who are more competent underestimate their abilities.

Why?

Because intelligent people care more about their public image. They want to be perceived as smart. But unfortunately to them, fear of being an idiot makes you look even more idiotic. 

On the other hand, stupid people believe that their abilities are above average. It’s a cognitive bias called illusory superiority and means that we think we’re smarter than everyone else around us. But we don’t need such complicated terms in this article. We’re talking about stupidity!

Confidence doesn’t only mean being certain about your qualities. Being confident also means that you’re certain you lack some skills. And that’s how it works:

  • You realize you don’t know some specific things.
  • You understand that there’s so much that you don’t know.
  • You become more self-aware.

As studies show, being self-aware is beneficial because improving self-awareness increases the quality of life.

4) You worry less about how others perceive you

You may think that acting like a fool is one of the worst possible things you can do to yourself. But did you know that some people tend to act like idiots intentionally?

The reason is that you can actually get plenty of benefits by acting like an idiot. And smart people who act like idiots have long realized that.

One of the main advantages of thinking that you’re an idiot is that you have no worries about life. Nobody expects much from stupid people. And when there are no expectations and no obligations towards you, life gets easier.

You eventually stop worrying about what people are perceiving you as, and it helps you become more self-confident.

Indeed, constant worrying about others’ expectations is a waste of time. Just accept the fact that everyone has their own opinions and judgments. You can’t control what others think of you. And you don’t even need to – others’ approval doesn’t matter.

Thinking you’re stupid will help you accept that there are some things that you just don’t know but it’s okay. No one is expecting more. That’s it!

5) You can make mistakes to see what happens

Admitting you’re an idiot will help you be more open to experience. You will try new things, take risks and learn more about life. Consequently, you’ll learn more about yourself too and your self-awareness will increase whether you’re ready or not.

Most people in our fast-paced world try so hard to avoid mistakes that finally, we forget how helpful mistakes can be for living our lives to the fullest.

Stupidity helps us realize that we don’t need to monitor every single move. We can just relax, make mistakes and learn.

Making mistakes will help us to free ourselves from fears and enjoy the “here and now” moments. You can exist more freely because there’s no rush. You need to make mistakes to experience the thrills and find your true self. But since clever people are afraid of making mistakes, it’s better if you accept that we’re all idiots.

We’re idiots and that’s okay because there’s no alternative.

6) You can accept yourself unconditionally

Did you know that accepting yourself will make you happier? Actually, that’s what studies prove. It seems like you can feel happiness on a daily basis, but you refuse to be happy for one very silly reason: you don’t want to look stupid.

That’s another reason why we need to think of ourselves as idiots.

Once we learn that human beings are foolish by nature, we won’t feel sorry about making one more mistake, and eventually, it won’t make sense if there’s something else that makes us look stupid.

Foolishness won’t be the news for us. And neither will its accompanying failures. Each new mistake will only strengthen the feeling of self-awareness and make us accept ourselves unconditionally, without any limits.

7) You understand how much you don’t know.

Let’s return to that question one more time.

Back when I was afraid of being perceived as a fool, I tried to focus on the positive things about myself. I tried to think about how much I knew about art, culture, psychology, politics, and other things that don’t really matter.

But I never paid attention to things I had no idea about.

However, being aware of how much you don’t know is the great part of being competent. Accepting your stupidity will help you get more in touch with your thoughts and ideas and see that there is so much that you don’t know about the world.

Wait, does it mean that you can be stupid and competent at the same time?

Yes. As we said, if competence is knowing specific aspects of the world and using them in action, then knowing how much you don’t know and working on it is also competence.

So, by admitting you’re an idiot, you can learn more about yourself and the world in general, no matter how confusing it may appear.

Less pressure, more time to think about yourself

And finally, thinking that you’re an idiot will allow you to think more about yourself. Does it mean that stupid people think more than intelligent ones?

No. The true reason is that dumb people feel less pressure from society to perform well. When people are used to the fact that you just can’t perform better because you lack certain skills or abilities, you’ll be free to progress according to your own pace.

And working on yourself without any hurry is accompanied by plenty of benefits.

Most importantly, you’ll have enough time to think about yourself, about things that are right and things you want to improve in yourself. Needless to say, in this process of self-analysis, you become more and more self-aware, and, consequently, your quality of life changes for the better.

Final thoughts

As it turns out, realizing that you’re an idiot is not a bad thing at all. But only if you accept that it’s a fact – you’re stupid, we’re all stupid and nothing is going to change. Only in that way will it lead to self-awareness.

Yes, we are all stupid and we should accept it. We’re all idiots in the given moment, we’ve been idiots in the past, and tomorrow we will still be idiots. However, you don’t have to worry about it because it’s part of human nature. It’s universal.

There’s no other available option. Normality is not possible. It’s a collective fantasy. So, if someone tells you you’re normal, don’t believe it! You’re uniquely stupid, just like the rest of the other individuals in our world.

But your stupidity also means that you’re smart enough to think about yourself, become more self-aware and improve your well-being.

What do you think?

Written by Nato Lagidze

Nato is a writer and a researcher with an academic background in psychology. She investigates self-compassion, emotional intelligence, psychological well-being, and the ways people make decisions. Writing about recent trends in the movie industry is her other hobby, alongside music, art, culture, and social influences. She dreams to create an uplifting documentary one day, inspired by her experiences with strangers.

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