I have a friend who, when applying for a job with foreign employers (Singaporean, actually), was asked to rate her skills from 1-5. She didn’t want to say 5 — it seemed too high as if saying you have no other room for learning because you’re reached maximum best already. She settled for a 3, I think (if my memory is right), and the woman seemed to have been disappointed at this answer and gave her a task to prove her skills instead. She’s already proven it and is swamped with more work right now, but the point of the short story was: how would you know how to rate yourself in numbers?
I’ve been asked the same question (though thankfully it’s from 1-10). I ranked myself pretty low on one since I didn’t want to oversell myself but afterwards it felt like I was undervaluing myself too. Maybe I could just have said a 6 or an 8, and then explained that despite my weaknesses I’m a very driven person with the desire to be the best so given some more training and experience, I’ll get to that 9 that everyone would love to hear.
I was never good at judging myself. It’s hard because I’m the type who’d always feel I’m not good enough, not excellent enough, unless I get some kind of praise or recognition from other people. And yet I’m always yearning to be among the best in what I do that it’s also frustrating that I can’t advertise myself as that yet. If only I could say, “I promise I have the potential to be a 10. I’m an 8 or a 6, but I’m still great at what I do. I’m just comparing myself on my ideal standards.” Because what is that “10” really? Why do numbers have to be vague?
For my friend and for myself, it remains to be a lesson. Maybe if we get asked this question more often we’d feel much more ready on how to answer. But with anything that happens to ourselves in life, mistake or not, we charge it to experience. Maybe learning to rate myself is important; maybe it’s not. Maybe it wasn’t as important as I think it was and perhaps I have proven myself in other ways already. I don’t have awards; I’ve never been featured in a magazine. But that doesn’t mean I’m not very good.
Some emails I’ve gotten lately have made me feel that there’s something in me that’s “worth it.” I just don’t see it so clearly yet because usually, the things we lack are more obvious to ourselves that we discount the fact that we have good abilities, have done pretty brilliant things, and could be so much more amazing.