There is a running joke in my family about my tendency to not fully understand seemingly simple concepts. For example, there was this time when we were driving up a hill and I made the mistake of saying, “Maybe I should downshift so that we get better traction here.” I legitimately thought that I had learned somewhere that by downshifting you would have better traction, so it seemed like a reasonable statement to me. My declaration, however; was met with wild laughter from the other geniuses in the car and I was soon given detailed explanations about why that particular statement was stupid. I had my wires crossed. Once the idea went into my brain it took a detour through bizarro world and came out backwards on the other side. Downshifting is what you do when you are going down a hill…to help slow your vehicle down. It will most likely not be a helpful strategy for driving up a hill.
I’m not a stupid person. In fact, I used to be quite intelligent. Like, strangely intelligent. This became my go-to during 4th grade when I attended 6 different schools as my family moved around trying to find work. I’ll share more about that year in another post, but for now I’m heading in a different direction. The harder things were at home, the more I hid in my schoolwork. Through my teen years, things were very difficult and I focused on what I could control; my ability to learn. A coping mechanism for me was to basically memorize everything that I needed to learn and forget about everything else. For a while, I hid in this pattern. I poured my energy into being a good student and I acted like everything was just fine. Everyone was so convinced that I was intelligent that they didn’t have a clue how broken I was. And that was okay with me. I didn’t want anyone to know how bad things were.
Over time, I learned that this was not a good way to deal with life’s challenges. Over-achieving didn’t do a thing to help the situation and it put a lot of unnecessary pressure on me to try and maintain a reputation as a “smart” kid. By sophomore year or so, I had given up on being known as smart. I decided to fly as far under the radar as possible and that’s what I did for the rest of my high school career. I was able to be smart; I just didn’t want to do it any longer. And the older I get, the less inclined I am to go to great lengths to impress anyone. I learned that in order to heal from brokenness, we must confront what broke us. Hiding behind a persona won’t fix anything. It only creates more crap for us to overcome.
So, these days, I allow my family to make fun of much of what I say. I figure they know deep down that I’m a whole lot smarter than I sometimes sound. If it makes them feel better to call attention to my shortcomings, I will let them have that. And if it provides some sort of comic relief for them, I’ll take that too. The point is that I have grown past the point where I need to filter those moments of inadequacy. And if I want to downshift while driving up a hill, I’m completely free to do that. I’m also free to be ridiculed, but that’s beside the point. I’m free to be an idiot if I so choose. And I’m all the better for it.
47 Days of Self-Care is a blogging project that is being published between three different blogs owned by Author & Publisher, Rebecca Benston. Over these 47 days, she hopes to share thoughts and resources for better self-care. You can view related posts at Higher Ground for Life, here at the Leading the Follower blog, and on the Higher Ground Books & Media blog.