There is an expression that some people believe, “You are the expert of your own life” or the other variation, “You are the only expert of your own life”.
I was in a planning meeting where we were working on developing a tool for women who might feel isolated or lack community during their pregnancy and postpartum period. A common theme and belief that kept being repeated during the brain storming session was that women know what’s best for themselves and they are experts in their own lives. I had to disagree.
I reminded everyone in attendance that if these women were indeed experts, they wouldn’t be needing help because they wouldn’t have found themselves in these situations that required government help. An expert is defined as “One with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject; b) having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” (Websters-Merriam Dictionary)
The reason I believe we can’t ever become “experts” of our own life is because of a simple fact, we don’t know what we don’t know. As someone who has worked with numerous women and others who are in emergency situations I have never believed that we should expect people to know exactly what they need. In the midst of situations that will eventually become traumatic, it is unrealistic to expect a person to be an expert while their life feels like it’s spiraling out of control, or in danger. That is why we as workers, friends, and family are there to be of help to those in need.
Failed expectations often lead to shame, embarrassment, isolation, and sometimes mood disorders. We can manage our lives as best as we can, but that never guarantees that occurrences outside of our control won’t happen and that we won’t be in a place where we won’t know what to do and seek assistance and advice.
There are a variety of reasons why people aren’t so called experts of their lives: PTSD, mood disorders, sleep deprivation, lack of self-awareness, being manipulated, effects of domestic violence, medical issues, and simply being human.
If you are an expert of your life, this can lead to not being open to growth and learning. Learning more about yourself, your environment, and others. It’s easy to see yourself one way while others might see you a different way. We can learn self-reflection, self-awareness, and healthy self-critique; but it is unlikely that you will ever become an expert on yourself.
Instead of being an expert, embrace being a learner with periods of thankfulness for the experiences of growth and transformation. We can plan for the future, but if we aren’t flexible and resilient, we will always be disappointed. Allow yourself to change directions and welcome new experiences. An expert is rarely on a journey because they know everything already and are often there to tell the world what they know rather than what they are learning. Experts spend plenty of time talking about the past and less on the future of open possibilities.
Let’s leave being an expert to things that are external to our self and instead, let’s be journeyers in our own lives.