Day 9 ~ Downshifting…

close up of gear shift over black background
Photo by Pixabay on

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.