I grew up in a household in which I was praised for everything I did. I continually heard, “You are so good at that!”; “Where did you learn to do that so well?”; “You are so smart!”; “I wish I could do that.”; “No really! You are so smart.” I’m pretty sure I was the best sleeper, breather and tv watcher, as well. I could do no wrong.
So imagine my surprise when I got beat in a game or got a lower score than a classmate. It had to be a fluke, I’d convince myself, over and over. I definitely had attitude. A somewhat dangerous attitude.
What’s the dangerous part? I had a “let me do that” attitude. Even when I didn’t have a clue how to do something. And I’d blurt out ridiculous statements because I was fairly certain I knew everything. I’m sure I gave out bad advice, instructions, directions, you name it. All because I was “so smart.” Thank goodness nobody was harmed during the blurting of my stupidity.
To the contrary, people were always nice to me, making me believe that I made perfect sense. Nodding in agreement even when I’d state something stupid like, “Mt. Everest is 16,000 feet tall.” It’s 29,000. And to make matters worse, I said that to a mountain climber. Or, “I only paid $8.25 for this $10 item. That’s like 6% off.” Sigh.
When it finally dawned on me that maybe I had a real conundrum on my hands (thinking I was brilliant, when I might actually be stupid), I went into a tailspin.
I wondered if I had damaged my extraordinary brain somehow. My family wouldn’t lie to me. I must have breathed in some toxic fumes or something.
I started to microscopically analyze everything I said or did. I kept score. My brain was losing. I began worrying and fretting. My identity was tied into being smart. I didn’t know how to behave if I was actually stupid.
I was caught in a vicious cycle. If I did something smart, it was a lucky guess. If I did something stupid, it was the real me. I couldn’t win.
Then I realized my family had only been trying to build my confidence. They meant no harm. I’m sure they thought I’d succumb to the self-fulfilling prophecy and actually become smarter. I wish it were so.
So, for now, I’m a work in progress. Trying to think before I blurt. And trying to convince myself that maybe I’m smart when I’m not being stupid.
There’s a loophole to everything.