When I was in high school, it wasn't "cool" to be smart. I was a 4.0 student, nerdy, a bit of a teacher's pet. I read a lot, so I knew plenty about lots of different subjects. I liked answering questions in class, because I felt good about being the one with the answers. Not many other people actually seemed to want to answer them, so why not? One day in English class, after answering several of the teacher's questions, the girl in front of me turned around and said "ugh, you're such a know-it-all!" And I don't think I raised my hand in that class very often after that. Being smart, knowing what you're talking about, wasn't acceptable, apparently.
But it's not just that people don't want to offer any answers: it's the way they give them. Like Taylor Mali says, many of our statements are laced with invisible questions, because no one seems sure of themselves anymore. And seriously, if I hear someone say "this is just my opinion and I could be wrong but..." one more time, I'm going to scream. Being wrong is not some kind of crime, but we seem to have this irrational fear of it-- thus we must declare it in advance. Being right is not some kind of crime, but we're afraid of it-- thus we must never act as if we're sure. After all, it's they that speak with conviction who we roll our eyes at, as if it's smarmy, nerdy, arrogant.
Confidence is not always arrogance.
Since when did the majority of people decide that they they need to question even their own intuitions to fit in? Since when did it become okay to condition people to harbor unfounded doubts concerning their own intellectual value? It's bullshit, people. It's absolute, utter fucking bullshit.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote "[s]peak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today." It's a tiny bit out of context, because what he's really talking about is our right to be inconsistent, but it also speaks to our right to believe we know what we're talking about, without apologies.
One of the things that is simultaneously incredibly annoying and saddening is the shyness I see my peers display when it comes to sharing their own thoughts. No one offers real answers these days. People say "well, from my reading of the text, and this is probably wrong, Dorian Grey seems like he could possibly be a total hottie. I dunno. Yeah." And then you shut your mouth and listen to the professor blather because the professor is very intelligent and educated and always right; he has a piece of paper to show it.
You know how authorities like professors get to be authorities? By asserting their own opinions. They research and develop opinions and back them. Your professor was not born with the answers. Your professor decided he had the answers and proved it. You have the same ability to do that in every single aspect of your life. Just because someone else has been doing it longer doesn't mean that he is any more correct.
Your mind is valuable. You're smart-- and that's cool. You are an authority on what you believe, what you know to be true, and you shouldn't second-guess yourself just because someone might disagree with you or think you're being a know-it-all. The truth of the matter is, few people would get anywhere important without speaking with conviction. There would be no professors, no scientists, no journalists, no doctors, no lawyers, no-- dare I say it-- politicians.
If I could ban all those nasty "I thinks" and "I might be wrongs" I would. I would throw those phrases and all their kin out of the English language.
And, no, I don't think that would be a good idea, I know it.
Do you find it annoying when other people seem "too" sure of themselves? Not sure enough? Do you speak with conviction?