I’ve just about had enough of the “not-enough-isms” we experience in our society. I hear it every day from clients, friends, family and often from that little jerk in my own head that loves to whisper not so sweet nothings in my ear. Here’s my “Letterman” Top Ten Not-Enough-isms:
- you’re not pretty enough
- you’re not rich enough
- you’re not thin enough
- you’re not talented enough
- you’re not young enough
- you’re not old enough
- you’re not funny enough
- you’re not creative enough
- you’re not fit enough
And the number one Not -Enough-ism I hear is… You are NOT SMART ENOUGH! Clearly, the whole list sucks serious hamster balls, but this one?? It’s sneaky and pervasive and shows up in people you would never imagine. I call it the Stupid Secret. It’s a secret because most of us would never admit (out loud) to feeling that we are stupid. Somehow the other “isms” seem to be a little more palatable. But just a little.
I remember the first time this thought put down roots in my brain. It was the summer between grade 11 and grade 12 and I had been chosen as one of two students from our school district (about 800 kids) to attend the UBC Camp for Gifted and Talented Students. The chosen group of 20 from all over BC would spend 5 days sleeping in dorms at UBC and attend lectures, with real live professors in real live lecture halls. I was so freaking pumped and pretty freaking nervous. Grade 11 was a good year for me academically and I was very involved in school activities as the student council president and editor of the annual. I knew I wasn’t going to be the smartest in the group but was pretty confident I would at least be able to fit in.
The first person I met was the other girl from my school district. Her name was Saffron, and when I asked her what her full name was she said “just Saffron…like Madonna or Cher”. Saffron was chill and laid back and said she “sang a little.” I didn’t get the feeling she was some brainiac. So far so good. Together we headed to the room we were all to meet in.
I could hear the beautiful music as we opened the door. It was a classical piece played perfectly by a young man I assumed they hired to welcome us. Turned out he was one of our group and had just decided to tickle some ivories while waiting for everyone. A few others joined in and they had a Bach concerto mash up (who does this??). When they were finished a skinny pimply faced kid who didn’t look a day over 12 hopped on the piano bench and brought down the house with “Hey Jude.” This was when my pal Saffron decided to join in. Sing a little? My ass! She was bloody amazing. I began to wonder, what the hell was I doing here??
That thought played on repeat in my head over the next five days of this Gifted and Talented camp. The opening day musical was nothing compared to the serious brain stuff that was to come. A private lecture with David Suzuki with everyone sitting around cross legged on the floor, riffing on ideas for saving the planet. It was 1985 and I had zero exposure to terms like sustainability or even recycling. I spent most of the time marvelling at Mr. Suzuki’s luscious grey hair and blushing every time he shot a squinty smile in my direction (Is it just me? Or is he not one sexy Science dude?). Then there were the lectures we attended on courses like Aeronautical Engineering and Quantum Physics. I could fake my way through these as I pretended to take notes while doodling HELP ME! over and over again in my notebook. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fake my way through the follow up discussions my fellow campers loved to have while laying on the campus grass under a giant maple tree. This group was definitely more Dead Poets Society while I felt akin to National Lampoon’s Animal House. What the hell was I doing here??
When I look back on this experience and break it down, I am able to see the truth. These three realizations created the shift I needed to CHANGE MY LIFE:
My NOT SMART ENOUGH tape began there.
Up until this point I had no reason to question my cognitive abilities. I had only positive experiences with teachers and I was lucky enough to have two parents that told me every day how smart I was. But here?! Here I was drowning in a pool of compare and despair and I felt totally out of my league. This was a recruitment camp for kids deemed at the top of their game and we were being wooed by UBC to attend their school. I didn’t say it out loud but the second my mom picked me up on the last day I knew I would never go back.
I chose BCIT and got an excellent business education that served me very well as an entrepreneur. I’m proud of my diploma in business as well as going back to school years later to become a Life Coach. But, I do wonder sometimes. I wonder what education I might have chosen had I not let this menacing tape of NOT SMART ENOUGH infiltrate my thoughts. Let me be clear, I love my career and I love my life! BUT, I also know that by allowing a stupid THOUGHT to guide my actions I limited my OPTIONS in this one precious life.
I kept it a SECRET.
I never admitted to anyone how that camp made me feel. In fact, this blog is kind of my coming out party. I am sharing it here because I want every one of you that may have this same limiting belief to hear me…IT IS A LIE!! You ARE smart enough! And it is time to dissolve these OLD, BULLSHIT beliefs that may be holding you back. When we shift our belief, we shift what IS POSSIBLE for us. The options become endless.
By sharing it here I am releasing any shame that may still lay dormant from this painful thought. I’m not asking you to blog out your story but I encourage you to share your story with someone you trust. Say it out loud. Unveil the SECRET and then show it the fucking door. Imagine who you are without that thought. A confident, strong, brave, beautifully brilliant human that isn’t afraid to speak her mind. We need to hear what you have to say. Staying quiet because you are afraid that people might judge you or God forbid think you are STUPID is slowly suffocating you from the inside out. And if (and this is a big IF) anyone actually calls you ignorant or stupid…gently take them by the hand and lead them to the nearest mirror. Darling, this is their shit not yours.
I did belong and I was indeed, GIFTED and TALENTED.
I have to believe that I wasn’t chosen out of hundreds of students because I had pulled one over on everyone. Someone saw something in me that put me on that UBC campus with this group of wickedly talented people. At the time I didn’t see it as I was eyeball deep in a serious case of Imposter Syndrome. But now, after years of personal reflection (and some excellent coaching) I can see what they saw.
During our free time, I would ask a zillion questions and listen intently to this group of inspiring, talented teenagers. I wanted to know about their lives and how they got here. What were the challenges that they faced? How did they manage them? What were their dreams after graduation? Many broke down in tears with me as they shared the academic pressures they felt from teachers and parents, but it was the social pressures that seemed to be the most painful for them. Just hanging out with friends and having fun was not part of their reality. Well, I can help with that I thought. Having pretty much earned a PHD in the art of having FUN throughout highschool, I decided to put my talents to work. Each night I would plan something fun and “stupid” for us to do. Twister, after curfew hide and seek, or just crashing the boys dorm and laughing til dawn. If only I could have known that this experience was giving me a glimpse of the life I was meant to have. The universe (or university, hehe) was showing me the way to my future career. First as a leader in my own business and then as a coach, working with people who are searching for clarity, meaning, and direction in their lives. I eventually found my way, but it would have been oh so lovely if I hadn’t wasted one precious second believing the LIE.
If you have the tape on repeat in your mind that you are NOT SMART ENOUGH, please for the sake of who you are meant to be in this world, give these steps a whirl:
- Search your memories for experiences and circumstances that may have created this tape in your thoughts. Recognize the truths and the lies. (note: if the thought creates pain?… it’s a big, fat, dirty LIE)
- Unveil the SECRET. Share your story with someone you trust. Release the shame.
- Name your talents. Discover where your unique Intelligence lies. Replace the lie that You are Not Smart Enough with the truth. YOU ARE ENOUGH. Period!
This process can be difficult to do alone.
As always, I’m here for you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your FREE 30 minute consult.