Yup, you can have someone whose behavior is clearly competent but they feel incompetent. Their history has them believing the Lie that they are unable to complete or perform a task.
We had this discussion on the MBT Monday night chat not long ago. In a romance, the heroine may recognize and encourage the hero’s skills and vice versa. Often in therapy the client who considers himself incompetent must be offered “proof,” which is normally done by repeating back to them some of the very things they have stated as factual.
For instance, in one of my manuscripts, the young hero believes he lacks courage. He bases this on information he received from one of his antagonists, his “stepfather” who is a renegade from the tribe with his own agenda.
Oftentimes the person instilling false perceptions has his own goal for wanting the person to believe the Lie. So part of the process of revealing the Truth is unmasking that individual’s motivations for wanting the hero or heroine (in story world cases) to believe the untruth.
In the case of incompetence, the person, often a caregiver, is seeking to exert control, in this case via mind manipulation. So if the hero or heroine believes he or she cannot do this certain thing then it will result in control by the caregiver and in the hero or heroine not engaging in a behavior that the caregiver wishes them to avoid.
The hero/heroine has to recognize that the other is qualified to perform some task or quest to trust. So the competent-incompetent person’s capabilities must shine in the story. He or she will say, “I can’t” yet their behavior clearly will show mastery of the denied skill. As in real life, in Storyworld the other characters must decide if it matters what the character says (if what is needed to be done happens).
This activity is similar to the biblical passage in which the father asks his two sons if they will perform a task. One says “yes” and the other “no.” The one who said “yes” didn’t do the task. The one who said “no” did. This latter son did right. It is the behavior that counts in the biblical example, as it should be in your manuscript.
Conversely, the person, or character, who consistently says they can do something or are capable of handling a task yet does not perform, will not be trusted.
Carrie Fancett Pagels spent 25 years as a licensed psychologist. She writes historical romance and is represented by Joyce Hart. ACFW MidAtlantic Zone Director. Blogs: Overcoming Through Time – With God’s Help and Colonial Quills. Founder, Colonial American Christian Writers.