If you tell me that I am strong, I will feel bad for giving off this impression.
Because I am not.
If you tell me that I am smart, I will list everything I don’t know so you are not mistaken.
Because I am not.
If you tell me that I am beautiful, I will smile and thank you but won’t believe it.
Because I am not.
If you tell me that my English sounds good, I will complain that it could sound better.
Because it could.
If you tell me that I should be proud of myself, I will find all the reasons not to.
Because there is two sides to every story and, from my perspective, there is not much I have done that strikes me as an achievement.
That’s just who I am.
I have never been able to overcome my insecurities on a mental, physical or intellectual level. The older I get, the nastier I am to myself. I question my worth on the daily, and I am nowhere near finding the confidence I need to live at peace. It’s like I can’t ever win. Whoever I become, whatever I do is never enough. As shallow as that sounds, my main concern has always been the way I look. Therefore, I have dedicated all my thoughts and doubts and fears to body image. But, it seems that my mind is now positive I am ugly, and so, apparently, I have more time and energy to focus on another one of my weaknesses – i.e. my alarming lack of brain cells (which is probably a very inaccurate statement, due to my lack of understanding of the brain or cells in general) – and worry about that instead.
I feel pretty dumb and uneducated most of the time. For that reason, I try my best to avoid all the quizzes or games that I get invited to, and that require knowledge or logic or both. Consequently, I miss out on a lot of fun. I would hate to be the liability in a group, or judged for getting poor results if I play by myself, which is idiotic in its own right because that’s probably how I could learn a few things. Actually, since I am so embarrassed about not being an erudite woman, maybe I should try to fill in the gaps and cultivate myself – surely that would fix the problem, right?
The issue is that I have zero faith in myself, to the point where I don’t even dare open a non-fiction book because I fear that my small, stupid brain will not understand what it’s reading. My attention span has deteriorated with severe depression, and my memory is selective in such a way that it remembers the exact times when someone hurt me or the harmful words they said, but quickly forgets about key dates in history, capital cities, the meaning of photosynthesis and everything else along those lines.
It frustrates me to no end that I am limiting myself so much, as I do enjoy learning. I love being taught about things I had no idea I would ever be interested in, by people who are passionate about the knowledge they share. If I’m having a conversation with someone and they are telling me all about a topic I know nothing about (which, again, is the case for most topics), I always find myself asking quite a few questions, like a child relentlessly inquiring about the whys. I’m just not very proactive at teaching myself and, whilst I am curious in some regards, I must admit that I don’t go out of my way to research or read outside of my comfort zone.
As all insecurities, this one is becoming more and more crippling. I constantly feel inferior to the people around me and belittling myself because of it, when everyone is simply different. I am aware that we all make progress at our own pace, but it feels like I am not quite where I should be in all aspects of life for someone my age.
To be honest, feeling stupid is not something I ever envisioned struggling with growing up but, looking back, a part of me always felt inadequate and afraid to speak up in case something daft came out of my mouth. Back then, however, the voices in my head were not as loud on this matter and I was able to go about my life without questioning my intellectual worth. I keep wondering where it all went wrong, but I guess a lot of the relief came from being an average-to-good student. I had grades to back me up when I doubted that I was perfectly capable, although, in retrospect, they only made me more competitive – both with myself and others – and made me more easily disappointed in myself if I didn’t get the mark I worked or aimed for. But also, they got me believing that it determined my abilities, i.e. I failed maths and biology repeatedly, so it was safe to assume that I was too thick to understand those subjects. It did not help that my brother, who tutored me at the time, would yell at me for not making any effort. He is still convinced that I was being difficult on purpose, that no one could be this dim. But the truth is that I was lost, I couldn’t keep up and the learning method probably needed to be reassessed.
Aside from the fiasco that were those tutoring sessions, I must also give credit to my mum for not spiralling out of control in the past, as she was kind, supportive and proud. She used to say I was too hard on myself. So did my teachers. Evidently, not much has changed. In fact, close friends who have known me for years and friends I have only just met all tell me that I should cut myself some slack. The expectations I set for myself may be unreasonable, yet I can’t help but think that others would cope fine with these personal standards, and that I am simply not built to become the woman I have always dreamt to be.
I can only hope that, one day, I stop being so unforgiving towards myself. Accepting my shortcomings, and giving myself room for improvement without minimising my progress or comparing myself to others along the way, would certainly make life and relationships a lot easier.