Monday, March 10, 2014

Lessons From a Spelling Test

This post will be dealing with some generalities. Discussion is welcome, but for my friends and readers I would ask that you take the general spirit of the idea, rather than the nit-picky details, because I'm not really at a point to hammer those out right now.

Which leads me into the idea presented in this blog post: I am frequently considered an intelligent, well-rounded, articulate individual who pays attention to the exact phrasing of words to communicate precisely what I intend, in as many layers as I intend, with quite a bit of control so as not to mis-speak. This has occurred since I was a child. I remember particular friends of mine from elementary school who would intentionally look through the stack of corrected spelling tests to try to find MY grade, and then make fun of me if I missed a word, because I was supposed to be "smart." I was frequently compared to a very smart boy named Alex--this comparison occurred at various times all the way up to our ACT scores and college scholarship money. I don't think Alex or I ever had a direct competition--it never even occurred to me to care WHAT his grades were--but the comparison was there. I adapted the policy of never telling anyone my grades, from elementary to high school. Not because I cared about FERPA or anything, but because I did not want to be made fun of any more than I already was.

Not only did this artificial and wasteful comparison destroy any elementary school chance of actual friendship with Alex and his group of friends (all intelligent, funny, witty people, whose company I greatly enjoyed), which opportunity is highly regrettable, but it also undermined my social and personal confidence. It led me develop an acute sense of shame, like I was never allowed to make a mistake. Because somehow, MY mistakes meant more than the mistakes of everyone else around me. They justified their misspelled words because mine were printed poorly; then tore me down for not being "as smart as I thought I was." (Read: as smart as THEY thought I was). This fed a long cycle of incredibly low self esteem, fueled by shame and pervasive feelings of incompetence, not only in the orthographic area of my budding linguistic academic career, but in all aspects of my life--music, athletics, math, fashion, in-class test review games, social skills and the ability to trust friendships. (The only thing it didn't effect directly, ironically, is my religious understanding. I've never associated shame with my personal religious beliefs. Apparently that is a rare thing, even among other people of my faith. That's a different topic, though).

But that's all kid stuff, right? As a well-adjusted adult, I can recognize those outlying factors of the immature peers and misguided adults of my childhood and move forward. I can prove to myself that I am better than that, by accomplishing thing A, B, C, and D that *I* want to do, regardless of social expectation. If I DON'T accomplish ALL THE THINGS and FULFILL ALL THE POTENTIAL and RISE ABOVE ALL THE HATERS and IGNORE ALL THE HURT FEELINGS, I have *chosen* to remain a victim. If I choose to remain a victim, then I have really done this to myself....and I am just a shamefully pathetic adult, a Victim, who had so much potential but just wasn't as good as we thought she was. 

Woah. It's like the Spelling-Test Police of my elementary years learned that sort of behavioral mindset....from their adult parents. Which adult world now has even more tools of judgement through our friend The Interwebs.

Well, joke's on you, Life Grammar Police. Because I'm done carrying the load. I is kind. I is smart. I is important. And I will find habibi who lets me just be a great person, faults and all, without turning my mistakes and weaknesses into character flaws. But that has to start with ME accepting that.  The only good answer to this nasty cycle of shame (direct or indirect) is a true understanding of the Gospel. Perhaps this is the "curse" that Nephi refers to in his lament in 2 Nephi 4? 

34 O Lord, I have atrusted in thee, and I will btrust in thee forever. I will not put my ctrust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his dtrust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
 35 Yea, I know that God will give aliberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I bask cnot amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the drock of my erighteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen."
The only way to break the cycle is to stop depending on people around us for validation or fulfillment, and instead allow the Lord to fill that need in our lives.  
And that requires true repentance, not shame and self-depreciation.

And a pretty hefty dose of "mind your own beeswax."

1 comment:

Robin said...

I may have to print this out so I can read it whenever I need to. You are an amazing human, and I am privileged to know you. Hugs.