Many years ago, as an intern in clinical psychology, I was advised by my supervisor that I needed to be willing to feel stupid. What he meant was, as long as I assumed that I already understood what a client was feeling, or that I actually knew what their life was life, I would neither listen to nor learn from them, which meant--since only they could tell me what they needed--I would never be able to help them.

No one likes feeling stupid. Realizing that there's something important that we don't know, makes us feel insecure. So we reach for something we can study. And that's a good thing, a good start in the right direction. There's a lot of history and social science we missed out on in our Eurocentric education.

But cultural competence will just get in our way if it lets us feel smugly woke and blinds us to how ignorant we really are. Only humble curiosity--the willingness to recognize our own stupidity--can prepare us to start learning what we really need to know.

Retired psychologist, wordsmith, teacher, MFA candidate. Buy me coffee:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store