Have you ever met anyone who made you feel stupid?
I bet you have. It doesn’t matter how intelligent we are, other people can always make us feel stupid one way or another. Sometimes they do it on purpose, but I suspect most of the time they don’t even realise they made us feel like that – at least not at first.
I always believed I was stupid. Not just a little, no, I always thought I was practically the village idiot. Everyone seemed to confirm that idea wherever I went – they would often just tell me directly.
When I was in school the teachers would assume that I was cheating on my schoolwork if I did well and they always made such a fuss about it, contacting my mother and complaining about how I stole the other kids work or some such nonsense.
My mother, luckily, usually saw me do my homework and she knew I wasn’t cheating. The teachers didn’t believe her, because they could see every day how stupid I clearly was. No chance I could have done it on my own. They told me even though I was just a little kid. It didn’t take long for me to understand I had to stop trying to do well if I didn’t want to continue to get into trouble. I didn’t just stop trying, I started doing bad on purpose.
People expected me to do bad, so I gave them the performance in school they wanted. Occasionally I forgot my own rules and asked questions that was too advanced in class or I got a little too excited about a paper and did a little too well, but all in all, it worked fine for me to pretend to be more stupid than I was.
It’s pretty important to understand that I didn’t do this because I thought I was clever, but exactly because I believed I was stupid. I started thinking that when I did well it was by accident, not because I worked for it. I could see in most aspects of my life that everyone was right when they told me I was stupid.
It wasn’t until university, my third or fourth year in fact, that I found out about my dyslexia. When I found out it changed a lot for me. All my life I believed I was stupid, but dyslexia took away that burden. Or so I believed, at least. When I was young in school no one talked about dyslexia like it was a real thing – people like me were just stupid.
Dyslexia meant I wasn’t just stupid; I was just a little different in a way that a lot of people aren’t.
Back then I thought that I had finally understood that I was unintelligent or stupid, I thought I’d finally be able to move on. It wasn’t really like that at all though.
Just because you don’t think you are as stupid as you thought you were it doesn’t mean you stop thinking you are stupid at all.
I must have thought very, very little of myself. I never realised just how little.
Today I experienced the oddest thing.
I heard a conversation between two people; one highly intelligent and one of normal. The highly intelligent man, I know he is very intelligent not only because he is a member of mensa, but because it is clear in everything he does or says. The other man, the normal one, is not stupid or anything like that – just an averagely intelligent man.
The conversation was brief, only a few sentences and it ended with the intelligent man giving up on explaining his point and thereafter moved on to a different topic.
As I watched the conversation, I felt like I was watching myself. I could hear myself argue using the very same words the intelligent man used and see people respond to me in the same way the Average Joe did. It was like thousands of conversations from my past replayed in my mind.
It was an experience that can only be described as mind-blowing.
I became entirely numb. Then, after a few moments, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry.
Before, when those similar situations happened, I thought I was too stupid to explain things or that I just didn’t have a brain capable of logical thinking. My brain, I believed, was just broken beyond repair.
It was all different when I saw the intelligent man speak at that moment. I saw him give up because he was too intelligent, and it was too tiring to dumb himself down even more. It wasn’t worth the effort it took to be understood – because yes – he had already dumbed himself down a lot. I could tell by his choice of words, his tone of voice and how he repeatedly tried saying the same thing in different way so that the other understood – all to no avail.
I always felt exactly the same way, but I thought it meant I was stupid.
It was like I finally understood that I am not stupid. It was that moment I understood what he had meant by saying that being highly intelligent is ‘like speaking a different language.’
It was shocking to realise that that other language, it is one that I can understand – at least to some degree.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that I am extremely intelligent, but I do realise that I am relatively intelligent. I feel like my whole life changed, because now I see my life differently.
My future is hard to imagine to me now, because I don’t know how to approach life without pretending that I’m more stupid than I am or even how to approach others now that I know that I am not stupid. I can feel myself become increasingly impatient with other people. Before, I got angry with myself because I couldn’t make others understand, but now I feel impatient that I have to repeatedly explain the same thing over and over again without them having the capacity to understand.
It makes me feel like a horrible person.
Hopefully I will soon re-adjust to my new understanding. As long as I am aware of my change in feelings, I am pretty sure I can find a way to adapt. Patience, however, is something I had never a lot of. Perhaps I should take some time to write about that one day soon. It is something that I have always struggled with a lot and now I am more aware of it than I ever was.