There is so much emphasis on being smart or intelligent in a lot of places like school, work, and even at home. Growing up and going through the special education system and being aware that people thought I was dull due to my learning disabilities hurt a lot. I know that’s the reason why I put so much effort into schoolwork to prove that I was capable and that I wasn’t stupid. I still am very sensitive about that topic – about how bright I am and trying to prove that I’m sharp. Those hurt feelings make me want to pretend that I don’t have anything different about me.
I strive so hard to be, look like, and act like I’m neurotypical. Trying this hard and putting so much effort into this persona of being “the same” means that I’m less tolerant of people who don’t want to or are not capable of pretending to be just like everyone else. This extreme dislike of making waves increases my prejudice against others who are different whether it be that they have intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, or mood disorders. Yes, I’m not perfect and yes, this is something I definitely need to work on. Just because I have a disability myself doesn’t mean I’m friends with everybody I come in contact with who has a disability. People who have intellectual disabilities make me really uncomfortable because they remind me of the things I don’t like about myself. I actually avoid people who make me uncomfortable because I don’t know what to say around them and I don’t know how to act.
I believe my reaction is not that uncommon for a lot of people. Writing this was an exercise in honesty because I felt awkward admitting that I feel and act the way I do. I’m trying to be more aware of my attitudes and my prejudices especially when giving praise. I try not to say “You’re smart” to another person. I try to say instead, “That took a lot of thought” or “That must have taken a lot of work for you to do.” Especially when I’m praising my nieces and nephews, I try to praise the hard work instead of how smart they are…
Why do I do this? It’s because that type of phrase I’ve heard discourages innovation and taking chances. The explanation I heard was “What if I don’t do as well next time, will they think I’m not smart?” This reasoning is why I don’t use the words “smart” or “clever” on a regular basis. Here’s the thing, having higher intelligence makes things easier sometimes but it’s only one part of being successful. There are so many other components that go into a good life or being victorious in accomplishing your goals.
These are some of my thoughts and points regarding this sensitive topic. What do you think? What do you agree with and what did you disagree with? Did you find this blog useful? As always, best wishes to all of my readers in all of your endeavors.