Inadequacy and Intelligence

As always, when I’m in a really difficult mindset, my instinct is to write about it, so here I am. I’d like to say I’ll wake up tomorrow morning feeling better, so all I can do right now is pray.

I’m very blessed to say that I know some amazingly intelligent people in my life. People who somehow have so much information stored up in their brains and can blow others away, myself included, with different facts and tidbits in mostly any situation. They are constantly reading or listening and remembering so much and have an endless capacity for more knowledge.

Because these people are, of course, ones I love and admire, I would much rather focus on their brilliance and achievements because I know that the second I turn anything back to myself, I honestly feel very disappointed.

That isn’t to say that I’m not capable of anything because that’s not the case. But I do see myself as below the high standards I see in others. Maybe they have immense vocabularies or speak very eloquently or throw trivia around like confetti, but all of those skills leave me feeling like I’m lacking.

I’m just not someone with book smarts, and I barely manage on streets smarts either, both of which I see in others and place high values on. We definitely focus more on the number of facts you can pull out of thin air, but there is such an importance in knowing how to deal with others and be in different situations where all you have is your gut, and you just act on that.

The main reason I’ve kept good grades throughout my education is that I genuinely love learning and I’m too hard on myself to let myself perform any less than what I expect of myself, ending up in a sometimes vicious cycle. Test anxiety doesn’t help. And on the other side of spectrum, social and general anxiety don’t help very often.

So especially when I see the relationships I have with very smart people, or simply see inspirational people my age accomplishing so much, I certainly feel inadequate. Undeserving of even being associated with intelligent people and wasteful in how I’m spending my time and energy.

Heck, the fact that I can repeatedly get stuck in this frame of mind questioning everything feels like I’m not smart enough to get out of it. Comparison is so addictive. When we measure ourselves and base our worth on its correlation with others, you’re in for disaster. In an academic setting, that’s unavoidable, but a lot of people don’t necessarily care either way. If only it were that simple.

I look back on my existence thus far and that can be hard because I automatically focus on the setbacks, the negatives. I see major holes of my past I for the life of me cannot remember. I am always appalled by people being able to share past stories and experiences so easily, and they ask me to share, and I have nothing to give. Even just day-to-day, I can be forgetful and have difficulties really retaining information. My boyfriend is constantly listening to podcasts and teaching me so much, and yet I try to listen to them and cannot retain a single thing past a day.

I always try to be open and friendly, but I know that I can be awkward, and it can take a very decent amount of time to actually form relationships with others. I’m just a quiet person, and sometimes that’s a curse for just not being able to talk loud enough to be taken seriously, hoping that my words make sense since I’m much better off writing. In any moments of tension or conflict, my go-to reactions are to completely clam up or let my emotions completely take over.

The main reason I’ve been recognized as smart is for my grades, but I’ve gotten to a point where the academic system feels so arbitrary (a topic I’ll discuss tomorrow, just you wait), using that word feels fake to me. I’m always observing others, and I see so much goodness and wisdom in them, it’s almost overwhelming. I want nothing more than to just support them and do everything I can to help them shine even more. But the second I return back to my own self, I’m overwhelmed with, honestly, disappointment. I’m just here existing with nothing to offer.

I wish I had a helpful answer here, something meaningful and insightful. While I don’t know how well I’ll listen to this, I hope others will remember that we are all in the same family of people. We each have a unique gift to give to the world, and that comes with a sense of wisdom and purpose. We’re all capable of so much, and we need to support each other in sharing that and making the world a brighter place.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


2 thoughts on “Inadequacy and Intelligence

  1. Hi Allie,
    Thanks for your raw and honest post. I have a secret to share with you, we all feel like that a lot of the time.

    There are a couple of things I want to touch on, first, I felt the exact same way as you when I was in school, I did well when I studied like crazy but I never felt like it ‘came naturally’ like it did for others – and I too loved learning (still do, in fact).
    But what I later realized is that there are several different types of intelligence. I have very high EI (emotional intelligence) which comes in really handy in the work world, especially if you’re responsible for leading others.

    The second thing I want to touch on is the memory part, if you’re really serious about having trouble remembering things you might want to visit your doctor, I have a hard time remembering things when my B12 is low, so I take a vitamin and it really helps (low B12 is really common, especially on a plant based diet).

    And the last, and most important thing is going back to the secret I shared above, have you ever heard of something called the imposter syndrome? It’s when high achieving people feel like they’re not good enough and believe their success is because of ‘luck’ or some other external factor, and they worry that they’ll be ‘found out’. (Google it!)

    Sounds like you have a pretty serious case of that (most ppl experience it in some form or another) I’ll bet if you asked your friends what they admire about you that would come up with a long list of things that would surprise you because you don’t see it in yourself.

    Ok, sorry for the super long reply!! Your post just spoke to me (we were just talking about imposter syndrome yesterday). Good luck and chin up, you’ll be ok. 🙂


    1. I could not have asked for a better comment to reply to this morning! I appreciate your wise insight and reminder that we’ve all been there. Never feel the need to apologize for sharing lots of thoughts, I love it. I have never heard of imposter syndrome but that makes a lot of sense. I’ll have to look more into it. I think in general we don’t necessarily think of different kinds of intelligence and see it more as black and white. There is intelligence is everything and everyone, perhaps just in different forms.
      Thanks again for your comment. People like you are why I keep writing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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