I’m Not that Smart, and Other Things I Fear Being Made Public
I bought this book because I’m trying to become smarter. Before you say, “Oh, stop that! You’re already smart. You’re a writer. You edit books and teach writing workshops. You have the choir music memorized before some singers have decided whether to sing the first soprano part or the second. You just want people to post comments about how amazing your mind is,” let me explain.
Several weeks ago, a horrible feeling came over me while helping Nathan study for the vocabulary portion of his English final, which focused mostly on root words. While I had a vague idea what most of the words meant, I dreaded the moment when Nathan might challenge me to define one. I planned to blame my inability to on the long exhausting day I’d had. Thankfully, he didn’t. But I sat there feeling like a poser, pretending to be bookish and brainy.
I felt a desperate need to catch up.
What if this got out, that I couldn’t even pass a 9th grade vocab test?
If anyone knew what a horrible speller I was, and how often I had to look up punctuation rules, they would take away my Writer card.
If they knew that my mom and grandma once had to pay me to read—that I didn’t fall in love with books until about sixth grade, and I started out only falling in love with certain books—they’d revoke my membership to Book Nerds United. (There is actually no such club, but if one existed, I would be kicked out of it.)
If my middle school GPA was made public (or is it were made public. Aack!!! See?), I would never get another book contract or editing job.
People might stop saying, “You are so smart.”What if this got out, that I couldn’t even pass a 9th grade vocab test? Click To Tweet
If any of the above happened I would use my default excuse that school was extra challenging for the first visually impaired kid in school who didn’t have the right glasses until halfway through 3rd grade or get connected to helpful resources until 4th. I would risk exhausting the story of my horrible, evil kindergarten teacher—the one who said, “Maybe she just isn’t smart,” suggesting that it was one of those “If someone tells you something enough times, you believe it” things, even though I’m pretty sure she only said it once. I would add that some traumatic things happened in recent years that sucked intelligence out of me, but I’m working very hard to get it back.
And hopefully I would feel really silly for doing it, because as true as all of this is, I ought to know by now that we are not defined by our past, or what people think of us now, or what we need to look up? If we are entertained by an author’s rant about the proper placement of an apostrophe, we are most likely smart.
If I go to a friend’s house and her living room is cluttered with books and knitting projects, I don’t think, What a slob, I won’t be taking organization advice from her. I immediately relax, knowing that if she ever sees my bedroom/office, she won’t be offended (I’m kind of outgrowing it. Either that or I need to buy fewer books and use the yarn I have before getting more.)
When I find out that a writer friend struggled in school, I don’t think less of her, I admire how far she has come.
So why this need to prove myself? Why the constant self-pummeling and dread of what might happen if the truth comes out?
What if it gets out that I wasn’t always a good wife?
What if I slip up and give a public display of what an imperfect parent I am?
What if I leave the house in an outfit that doesn’t match?
What if I forget the words to a song in front of the entire choir? Or the entire church?
People might know I’m human!
As my dear friend Katrina would say, “Oh, you mean like the rest of us?”
So, I really am trying to become smarter, because brushing up on things like punctuation when one is a writer and freelance editor is a smart thing to do. If I tell those who attend my workshops to read one writing book per year, I should be doing it too. But I am also working on letting go of the “what if” fear of exposure.
Why is this fear so powerful? Why is it that we dread the idea of being imperfect when we secretly resent perfect people? No one likes a know-it-all, but oh, how we’d love to be the one who has all the correct answers, and we wouldn’t be at all obnoxious about it!
I would love to hear your thoughts! When have you feared being exposed as imperfect? What happened when the truth came out? What is God teaching you about what it really means to be smart, or a good parent, or … whatever you feel the need to impress the world with?No one likes a know-it-all, but oh, how we’d love to be the one who has all the correct… Click To Tweet