I'm not that smart: this weeks lesson from therapy
I vividly remember my third grade year in elementary.
I stared at the page of multiplication facts, three rows wide and five facts long. My teacher, a pretty brunette who I once saw at a grocery store and was fascinated that she had an actual life says "Alright, two minutes on the clock and...begin."
I guessed every single fact on that sheet. 8x6? 43 sounds good. 7x5? How about 29. I didn't even try to use any sort of logic. I just filled in the slots.
I always wonder what nugget will emerge from my weekly therapy.
Unless something is really pressing I often go in thinking I'll have nothing to talk about. As if my life is so completely figured out. Uh yeah, right.
There is always some little piece of wisdom that comes from her and sometimes, if I dare say it, me.
Today I found out that I don't think I'm smart.
My Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Clang, wanted to hold me back but my mom wasn't having it. So I moved schools, learned to read by feeling felt letters and then tested into the GATE program where we did cool things like plan a city, dissect a frog and solve world problems. I thrived.
That program ended and back to the memorization, reading and stuff I wasn't generally that interested in.
I struggled. I didn't fail, I was just sort of mediocre. Summer into Sophomore year I was supposed to read "King Arthur." So I rented "Camelot" the musical at Blockbuster Video, fell asleep and failed the test the first day of school. I managed to graduate with a 2.9. Not that bad. Not that good. I now watch my nieces and nephews in all these A.P. classes with amazement.
What can I say? I don't know if I was just uninterested or not all that smart. A little of both maybe.
When I got into performing arts school I became immediately motivated. It was through the lens of what I love to do that I learned how to learn. I learned how to do math, read Shakespeare, to reason, to debate, to strive, and in the end, excel.
Still something still nags at me.
For the most part when I create or idea generate I'm building upon other peoples ideas. I emulate and sometimes reorganize in order to create my own piece of content. I think this is a completely valid way of learning. It's how I taught myself how to sing, dance, and write.
But now as I begin to put together the ideas that are uniquely mine I start to seize up. I am afraid. I hear the authority figures in my mind saying "that's not the way it's done."
As an adult I carry with me the mantra in my head that I'm not smart and today I made the connection that I have carried that into my creative life.
I know I'm not alone.
I know this as a common problem among those who create. I've known for a long time that fear was holding me back from my potential. It's not been a secret to me that as a child I didn't feel smart.
I guess it was today that I was able to put the two together.
It seems so simple. Simple yet profound.
Of course I asked my therapist how I go about getting rid of that thought.
Obviously she told me that's not possible.
She said it's built into me like firmware is built into a computer.
"So what do I do?" I asked.
"You just notice it." She responded.
"That's it?" I said annoyed.
"You just notice it. You want to fight it, but the more you fight it, it fights back. You just need to acknowledge it and see what happens. You need to love that part of yourself."
I said "I'm a lover not a fighter," and laughed at the Michael Jackson reference. I don't think she got it.
She's right. My go to is to fight. When I'm off balance I fight for injustice, I argue to extreme, I insist on someone thinking I'm right. My body fights when it gets sick and I panic often making myself sicker. I struggle to think that I can't change people, or make them my friend, or help them before the hurt themselves more.
So what happens if I stop fighting myself? What sort of pressure will that relieve? Can I circumvent the firmware inside me?
I don't know. That would be thinking about it too much. Today I will only do what she says.
I will simply notice.