The Monsters You Know

  • Jeff Gibbard
  • 7 min read

I don’t want to scare you but, the world is full of monsters.

Some of these monsters are easy to see; they are big and scary. I’m talking about monsters like:

  • climate change
  • racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination
  • income inequality and financial insecurity
  • …and plenty of others.

Those are big picture monsters. These problems are so large that it can feel pointless to try and change things…it can feel hopeless. Too often, we resign ourselves to just watching the chaos unfold.

I understand, and sadly, I must inform you that I don’t have an answer for how to slay those dragons. At least, not today.

But, these big picture monsters aren’t the only monsters in the world. Perhaps we can conquer some of the rest. Today, let’s look at three monsters you know, and see if we can’t figure out how to emerge victorious.

Professor Akar AKA The Evil Professor

person wearing black mask and brown pullover hoodie

There is so much information in the world.

Some cope with this fact by learning the bare minimum, assuming they know it all, and strut around with the kind of swagger that Nobel Prize winners are entitled to but rarely show. Look up the Dunning-Kruger Effect for more information on this phenomenon.

Everyone else, knows approximately how little they know.

The Evil Professor lurks around knowledge. It knows everything, most importantly, it knows that you are stupid and don’t know what you’re talking about. The Evil Professor is a monster who makes you feel like a fraud, a phony, a fake, for your lack of knowledge. It calls you stupid. It mocks how little you really know. It questions you with every sentence you utter. You cannot run away from The Evil Professor or just ignore it because it is inside of you, whispering in your ear.

So, you retreat inside of yourself. You stop sharing your gifts with the world.

Let’s clear the path, shall we?

How to beat Professor Akar

This monster is resilient, and it will come back time and time again. There is no surefire way to destroy this monster, but you can chase it back into its cave.

You will need two weapons.

First, you will need to be prepared. The Evil Professor is largest at the start of your journey. The more you learn about your subject, the smaller this monster becomes. As you learn, two things will likely happen.

  1. Your confidence will grow.
  2. You will learn how to be clear with others about the bounds of your knowledge.

The Evil Professor is strongest when you are not confident. Weaken it by taking the time to continually learn more about the subject. The monster grows strongest around bullshit, when you are knowingly pretending to know about something. Knock the monster back by saying the magic spell: “I don’t know.”

The second weapon you will need is an anchor. If you look down, you will notice that you already have an anchor, and it’s probably the one slowing you down. Anchoring is a term used to describe an irrational bias towards an arbitrary benchmark figure. Anchoring is used in sales, negotiation, and finance. The anchor you are probably holding to manifest The Evil Professor, is your comparison to some greater idealized source of knowledge. To defeat The Evil Professor, swap out your anchor. Change your basis of comparison.

When you recognize that you do not need to be the ultimate source of knowledge on a subject matter, and simply need to provide value and be clear about the boundaries of what you know, The Evil Professor will fade away into the fog. But beware, it is always waiting to pounce again.

The Draven AKA The Evil Coach

man standing while wearing black mask

“Why did I say that?”

“Why do I do that thing with my hands?”

“Do I always talk that fast?”

Got performance anxiety? You’re not alone. At some point in everyone’s life, they find themselves failing to meet their own expectations of themselves. It’s time to meet the monster: The Draven.

The Draven is an Evil Coach who doesn’t help us become our best, it just berates us for sucking so badly…at everything. The Evil Coach expects perfection, across everything we do. Nothing less will do. Your face isn’t right, the way you move is stupid, even your voice is the absolute worst. You say stupid things, you aren’t good at anything, and you’ll never accomplish what you’re after with that kind of performance.

The Evil Coach lurks around performances. It knows what your best looks like and sees everything that doesn’t measure up. It knows what you are insecure about and makes sure to point it out, and show you that it’s real.

So, you retreat inside of yourself. You stop sharing your gifts with the world.

Let’s clear the path, shall we?

How to beat The Evil Coach

I’ve got good news.

You can overcome The Evil Coach with the very same weapons that you used to emerge victorious from your battle with The Evil Professor.

Take a deep breath. You can do this.

Remember how you beat The Evil Professor because we’re going to do this again. Give yourself some space to be right where you are. Set aside some time to work on your performance.

Do you find yourself saying “um”, or “like” too often in conversation? Give yourself the task of incremental improvement. Try to count how many times you say it in a single day and then reduce it by 10% every week. Do you talk too quickly in conversation? Find something to remind you to slow down, even if it’s just a Post-it note.

Do you compare yourself to someone else who does it better? Try to remember that at some point, they were just starting off, and you’re likely comparing an earlier part of your journey to a later part of theirs.

Give yourself some additional preparation, and anchor yourself to something or someone closer to where you are. Remember that The Evil Coach is in your head, just like The Evil Professor. Neither of them can stand it when you are gentle with yourself and accept yourself for where you are.

The Final Boss

selective focus photography of man's reflection on a broken mirror

Congratulations. You’ve managed to make it past the henchmen monsters and it was no easy feat. Now comes your toughest test: The Final Boss.

The Final Boss will be the fight of your life…literally. The Final Boss, is you.

The Final Boss lurks, everywhere. You are the canvas for all of the brightest and the darkest thoughts you experience over the course of your life. Each one of us are big ole baskets of experiences. Some of those experiences are blissful and others are trauma. Some are forgotten and some become recurring insecurities.

You will encounter this monster time and time again. You will win sometimes, and you will lose just as many. If you’re lucky, you’ll win more than you lose and the unfortunate truth is that this isn’t always under your control.

So, how can we clear this path?

How to beat The Final Boss: You

You can’t beat this boss, but you can make peace with it. Sometimes it’ll be easy, sometimes it will take work. Sometimes you’ll resolve things on your own, and sometimes you’ll need help.

Whatever you are struggling with, whether it be one of the two monsters I mentioned above, or another one, chances are, fighting those monsters will happen inside of you. You can try to ignore the monsters, you can try to lock them away, but unless you make peace with them, they’ll always be waiting under your bed, in your closet, in your basement, or in the back of your mind, ready to pounce when you need to be your best.

We want our monsters to be real, to be tangible, and to have sensible and rational ways of being overcome. Once in a while they are, but more often than not, if you try to project manage your way out of this, you’ll find yourself grasping at smoke.

Maybe you don’t know any of these monsters that I’ve been talking about. It’s certainly possible. I know these monsters, and I’m willing to bet you do too. In fact, every person you meet probably knows these monsters.

So, let’s all agree to be a little kinder to ourselves and to one another, because we’re all fighting monsters.

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