This blog is part of my recovery, and I would like it to remain a safe place for me to share parts of myself and my life that people close to me may or may not know. As a result, while I'm not going crazy with privacy settings, I do ask that if you find this on your own and suspect you may know me, please respect my privacy by checking with us before reading any further. This obviously doesn't apply if one of us has given you the link!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stupid *Isn't* As Stupid Does

Intelligence/stupidity has been something that just keeps coming up for me, lately. I've had several conversations around the topic in the last couple of weeks, and they've all been really interesting with some big insights for me.

I've spent most of my life being told that I could do anything I wanted to do, be anything I wanted to be. I've also spent most of my life being told that I can't do anything, that I'm stupid and that I will never be good enough. Confusingly enough, many of the people giving me these messages were giving me both messages at the same time. Caught in my borderline black & white thinking, I interpreted this as "I am stupid" and "I will never be good enough" (with a side dose of messages such as "people will tell me I am smart so they feel better about the fact that I have nothing going for me"). Since I had an desperate need to please, I continued trying to prove that I could be smart for a long time. I continued trying to live up to the expectations that were in place, and I continued trying to prove that I could be good enough.

While I was still in this desperate to please state, I fell in love with a boy I considered very intelligent. He was charismatic, funny, good at numbers and figures, he knew a lot of things about a lot of things, and he was very sure of himself - so sure that every time I thought something was different to how he said, he would set about proving how wrong I was. I'm sure you all know where this is headed, but I didn't.

I started to have a breakdown. My doctor decided to remove me from my studies at University because I was too much of a suicide risk the way I was. It, at the time, fuelled the fire of self hate and doubt at my intelligence - how smart could I be if I had to be removed from Uni because I couldn't handle it?

The one good thing to come out of it was that since I had dropped out of Uni, most peoples' expectations on me disappeared. I was, more than ever, the family screw-up, but one they'd lost hope in. At least I'd married myself off and wouldn't need to leech off them...

By the time another year had passed, I had stopped trying to prove I was smart. What was the point? As far as I could tell, any intelligence I might once have had was long gone, probably had never existed at all. Eventually I even seemed to be actively trying to prove my lack of intelligence.

And by then, my view of myself as stupid had evolved into a many faceted thing. I was stupid because I couldn't think in the ways I used to be able to as a child. I was stupid because I wasn't good at numbers and figures. I was stupid because I had a poor memory. I was stupid because I'd made some unhealthy choices. I was stupid because I couldn't make connections I'd never been taught to make. I was stupid because I couldn't even finish University. I was stupid because I didn't get a better OP score in high school. I was stupid because I didn't think in the same ways as people I cared about thought in.

Not only that, but being 'stupid' filled some of my needs. Being stupid meant lower expectations on me. Being stupid meant I was humble. Being stupid meant I didn't get accused of getting above my station. Being stupid meant I wasn't a threat.

It got so that most people seemed to forget how smart I'd been. Many of the people in my life 'now' had never known the smart kid in school, which helped, and peoples' expectations of me were different. My best friend said to me the other day that nobody expected stupidity from me and that it wasn't how people thought of me - but she's only half right. A good proportion of people in my life really do think that I'm as thick as a couple of planks... but it's only because I've worked so hard to make them think that way.

I still remember saying something in DBT one day and the room went quiet. One woman, who hid behind her intelligence and rational thought as a form of avoidance, had the guts to say it: "Wow. You're actually really smart, aren't you? You hide it very well!"

Indeed, just the other day, in a chatroom I regularly visit, someone I've known as an acquaintance for years made the comment, "when did you get so wise?" and the truth is... I suppose I always have been. But I haven't been brave enough to let it show in years.

And, you know, for all that I've just outright admitted in this post that I am not so stupid after all, I still struggle to believe it most of the time. And as hard as it is to believe it, it's even harder to say it.

But guess what? I'm not stupid, and I'm really starting to show it again.

Challenge and cheer-leading statements:
All feelings are real and valid. All feelings will pass.
However I feel is okay.
Being different doesn't have to mean being wrong.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.


  1. I'm so happy for you to realise these things. It is hard when you get put down for so long, trust me, I know. I was thought to be stupid in primary school because I failed everything but then in grade 7 they found out I was profoundly deaf in my left ear, so it was just that I couldn't hear.

    We have to believe in ourselves and I am glad you are doing this, good for you my friend and I am so proud of you :)

  2. i think that i'm pretty intelligent. but mostly not in ways that i think actually matter.