Why People Think They Are Talented When They Are Not
Ever wonder why people with no or little talent try out for shows such as America’s Got Talent, and X Factor? I have been a performer myself both as a vocalist and as a dancer since I was five years old and have worked hard on those skills. I have seen performers come and go. Some seem to be delusional about how good they are.
The performers obviously feel sure that they are the next big star and brag about how good they are. Then the performers strut onto their spot, sure that they are going to impress the judges and the audience. They open their mouths to sing or perform in some other way. The effect on the judges is the same as nails on chalkboard.
Then, it is like a bomb hits. The judges tell them they are bad and should not pursue their talent as a career. Once the performers scrap their jaws off the floor, they struggle with the judges' negative opinions of their talents. The performers will probably experience anger, shock, or denial. They may even start bashing the judges and blame them for not recognizing their talent.
They often do not realize that they have totally embarrassed themselves and are about to be featured in the “bad and clueless non-talent” section of the show. There is always the possibility that untalented people have mental health issues, but many so-called "normal" people get caught up in the delusion that they are talented when they are not.
The problem with false feedback
A 2014 study by Iowa State University suggests that part of the problem is that the untalented are receiving false feedback from the people around them. Family, friends, and employers may tell them they have done a good job instead of risking hurting the performer’s feelings by being honest.
Sometimes, people think that they are boosting the performers’ self-esteem and their performance with false praise, but researchers say that rarely happens. Telling someone they are great and ignoring their lack of ability can become a problem. The false information promotes the illusion that the would-be performer has a certain skill. Another problem is that the untalented often get little or no accurate feedback on their performances.
On singing competition TV shows, contestants will insist that they are good singers and are astonished when the judges do not affirm their self-image. The performers do not perceive that they are singing out of tune or have no idea when or if they are singing on pitch. They also probably do not even know what those terms mean.
When people have misperceptions about their abilities, this situation can lead them to make wrong decisions about various aspects of their lives.
Here are some common problems that occur when we pursue the wrong goals:
Frustration: Pursuing the wrong goals is like trying to swim against a current. We get frustrated because we keep being pulled backwards when we want to move forward.
Lack of positive affirmation: People whose opinions count to us on our journey are not affirming our abilities, and may even be discouraging us from pursuing our goals.
Low self-esteem: When we don’t experience the satisfaction that goes with success, we tend to blame ourselves for our failures.
Discouragement: It is so discouraging to not get positive feedback from the right people and the results that we want. We seem to be spinning our wheels and going nowhere.
Time wasted: Chances are we wasted time on education, reading, research, or practice on the wrong talents, leaving us feeling depressed, frustrated and unfulfilled. Sadly, this time could often have been put to better use pursuing goals that better fit with our talents.
The achievement of any skill demands:
- Our willingness to educate ourselves in our area of expertise
- An ability to accept constructive criticism
- Extensive time commitment to training and sharpening our skill
- Mentors who are both honest and encouraging
- Support from family and loved ones
Getting real about abilities
There are steps that can be taken to ensure that we pursue the right career aspirations.
It is difficult for people to have insight into their abilities. People focus on areas where they are successful and downplay their weaknesses.
For example, a person may be a wonder on the basketball court and claim to be a good athlete even though they do not perform well in other sports. We need input from people who are both skilled in the area we aspire to achieve and are willing to be brutally honest. They may be able to steer us in the direction we should be going.
Adding education and training
Everyone has abilities and natural talents but it takes more than that to be really good at certain skills. People often need education, training, and experience as well in their field of expertise. Many of the performers who actually make it onto shows like American Idol have spent a lot of time paying their dues by paying for music lessons, and singing at choir practice or playing with a band.
Talent is not enough. Training and practice are also needed elements. At one point in the show American Idol, for example, the singers are expected to sing in groups. They often have to demonstrate their ability to sing harmony and must be able to blend their voices with others with others. These skills take a lot of practice.
Mentors and examples
Sometimes we can align ourselves with others such as a fellow co-workers who are similar gifts as partners who can have each other’s backs. We can also hold one another accountable and give us a kick when we need it. We can expect to fail from time to time, and our partners may be able to point out where we went wrong.
We also need mentors who are willing to be honest with us and give us constructive feedback. Mentors can help us keep going in the right direction.
Focus on what we are good at
These days, shows seem to be focusing more on talented individuals rather than showing untalented and and clueless performers in a way that would hold them up to public ridicule.
We tend to be drawn to use the skills that reflect our expertise. If we focus on areas where we are weak, we will experience lowered self-esteem and self-doubt. Focusing on our strengths, however, can be fulfilling and make us feel that we are moving forward with our lives.
© 2014 Carola Finch