Thursday, August 9, 2007

Credibility, expertise, authority, esteem, respect--what am I looking for?

I decided to write about this because it's on my mind a lot and because it's been an issue for a long time, yet one I've rarely ever talked about.

I wrote just a bit ago about who is the expert on fringe Jews. I am interested in what others think about that. Do you go to the source to understand an issue, or do you trust the doctor who has studied it but never known it with the intimacy the source has? Or is it that the topic of mental illness in general automatically discredits anyone with one?

But this is part of a larger issue. RWAC wrote in a comment on one of his posts that "people with titles are taken seriously - and it makes sense that someone who has put in the time to study and work in a given field should be taken seriously, until proven unworthy. But at the same time, people who don't have the degrees should still be taken seriously, to whatever degree they have expertise and are able to communicate it."

This seems like complete, respectful, common sense to me. If everyone practiced this, there would be a lot fewer people who feel invalidated in this world.

That said, I'm still not quite sure what I'm looking for. This all came about because I felt that being female and title-less restricted me from accomplishing much of anything other than birthing and raising Jewish children.

But that's not exactly true either. I said I didn't have a title or initials after my name, but I do, technically. I just don't have the sort of initials to put after my name that wouldn't look pretentious. I have earned several degrees, though none of them in Jewish topics. I can't explain further without compromising myself, but the feeling I get in my community is that unless I hold specifically a PhD, JD, MD or semicha, none of the rest of it matters. And I don't have any of those four, for all sorts of obvious and not so obvious reasons.

At the same time, I can't help but think that the loudest most powerful force standing in my way is me, though I do not believe the entire problem resides in my head. My own lack of confidence, my hesitation in thinking I could be helpful to anyone at the very same time I want to be helpful with what I know and have learned and experienced, my fear of ever being anything close to arrogant.

My counselor thinks that I could allow myself a little arrogance, that my boundaries against that are so strong and so far out that what would seem to me to be slightly arrogant (in myself) would likely appear to everyone else as simply self-confident. That scares me a bit but I'm working on it.

Meanwhile I feel ineffective. Unheard, unseen, not taken seriously, without credibility despite initials I've earned and experiences I've lived, something.

I can't be the only one. Can I? Do others ever feel like this? What do you do? How do you deal with it?

3 comments:

mother in israel said...

You shouldn't need to have any kind of "initials" to feel that you have something to contribute. If you start speaking up, people will probably be surprised at first and perhaps discount what you are saying, but as you do so more often they will begin to listen. There will always be people who look down on you, no matter what, and it's important to ignore them as best you can.

Jeremy said...

Hi, I found your blog using the new "profile interest search".
I would like to thank you for sharing your struggles, that in and of itself is a sign of inner strength.
I look foward to getting to know you better through your blog.

Rivka said...

Mother in Israel: any suggestions on how to ignore those who look down? :) I like what you said, and I think you are right. Persistence may count for as much as any initials.

Jeremy: thank you for visiting and commenting. I always hope that this blog can be in some way helpful to others even as it's helpful to me.