In Len Deighton’s “The Ipcress File” (one of his earliest and best novels), there’s an account of a German factory that imports workers from Africa. Working alongside their established counterparts, the immigrants learn quickly and perform very well. Encouraged by this, the company builds another factory in the African village that was the source of these workers. In spite of intensive training, the staff can barely learn how to turn on the lights. Analyzing the situations, the management concludes that the difference was that in Germany the immigrants picked up the nothing-to-it perception of the established workforce. I believe this same principle holds true in paddling.
I always advise people, especially beginners, to paddle with others who are better at it than they are. The assumption is that it’s a good way to observe and learn technique. While I don’t dispute that, I think the main benefit is that if you paddle with people who think rough water, rolls, rescues, etc. are very doable, you come to believe that. You’re more relaxed and confident which enables you to paddle better. Conversely, if you go out with people who think that stuff is hard, you will adopt that attitude. Your approach will be tentative, negatively affecting your paddling and outcomes.
Therefore, my advice to enjoy greater abilities and safety, make an effort to paddle with the highly skilled on some occasions.