What do you do if you just know you’re not very smart? It seems that everyone around me is intelligent, and understands things faster. I know it keeps me from good positions because I was just passed over for a recent promotion. Even my mom tells me I’m not as smart as my sister. Is there something I can do to improve?
Signed, Not Smart
It’s my firm belief that intelligence is far more complex—and varied—than just how much information we know. I’ve met people who didn’t get past grade school who were wise in the ways of the world and human nature. And I’ve met people who’ve graduated from universities who were clueless about many things the uneducated individuals found easy and simple. We’re all blessed with certain gifts and abilities. Comparing yourself to anyone else is counterproductive and harmful.
I’m sorry your mother uses such hurtful comparisons. Please don’t let it keep you from seeing the light and beauty within you. We can certainly suffer from less-than-perfect parenting, but it doesn’t mean we have to continually accept as true something painful and unfair.
If you see yourself as lacking in intelligence, you’ll behave in ways that confirm that belief. For instance, you mention being passed over for a promotion at work because you’re not smart enough. Are you positive that’s the reason? Did they actually tell you that? My guess is that you’ve assumed you didn’t get the position because you’re not smart and now you’re acting from that assumption. It then reinforces your negative opinion of yourself
My suggestion would be to ask for a meeting with your supervisor. Thank him or her for the opportunity of applying for the recent opening and let them know you’re still interested in higher positions. To that end, you’d appreciate knowing what you could do in order to better your chances for getting the next promotion. Ask what skills and abilities they’d suggest you work on. It lets them know that you’re serious about your work and that you’re willing to do what’s necessary to succeed.
More importantly, it gives you something tangible, a goal. When you put every perceived failure as due to your not being smart, you cast yourself in the role of a victim and you successfully block any chance of moving beyond that by saying, “Well I’m just not very smart.” It becomes both a label and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Just as with everything else in the world, there will be some people you’ll perceive as somehow smarter than you, and there will no doubt be people you’ll see yourself as smarter than. Neither viewpoint gets you anywhere. Instead why not work on seeing your gifts and talents? If there are areas you feel weak in, then take a class or read up on the subject. Ask someone you trust for tutoring in an area you’d like to improve in. Having a curious, questioning attitude keeps learning alive and fun, and the more you enjoy the process, the less focus you’ll have on the end results.
My sister and I are very close but there’s something I’m really worried about. She has two daughters, one is eleven and the other is fourteen. My parents raised them for several years but now they’re with my sister and the father is long gone. I’m glad she’s taking being a mother seriously, but she lets them get away with everything. I know she’s trying to make up for the past, but these girls are calling all the shots. There are no bedtimes or rules, and they’re rude to my sister as well as other adults. This isn’t healthy for the girls or her. Should I say something?
Signed, Troubled Aunt
Commenting on someone’s parenting skills is never easy, especially if you go about it by touching on the bad behavior of their children first. That being said, you did mention that you and your sister are very close. Have you spoken in the past about the issue of her children? Is this a taboo subject? Or is this something that you can approach via conversations you’ve already had?
For instance, if in the past you’ve talked about her wanting to raise the kids herself, you might be able to find a time to praise her for taking on the role of single parent. Let her know you realize how difficult it can be and how you’d like to help. Pay attention to how she reacts to your overture. If she’s receptive you can then gently mention that you notice the girls don’t have some simple rules that could make their life—not to mention her own—easier. Be aware of how she’s responding to your comments and let the conversation move from there.
Of course there’s always the chance that she’ll feel defensive about your suggestions. If that’s the case you’ll have to bite your tongue. That being said, don’t overlook the wonderful position you have as an aunt in being a positive influence in your nieces lives. Instead be willing to do what you can in your role as an aunt to love and guide them.
You can, in subtle ways that aren’t preachy, help give them boundaries when they’re with you. If they stay the night at your house you can have something fun arranged for after dinner that precedes bedtime. Perhaps you can institute a reading or sharing time. Maybe you watch a movie you’ll all enjoy while letting them know that afterwards it will be time for bed. They may balk but be firm and loving. It’s a reality that children not only need, but at some level want, boundaries. It makes them feel secure and protected.
Some of the most influential loved ones in my life have been those wonderful aunts who gifted me with their time. You have the honor of being a role-model for your young nieces.
Many blessings, Asrianna
I have a wonderful marriage to a great man. We have two children, a boy and a girl that we both adore. The problem is that my son and husband don’t seem to share many interests. My seven-year-old son is a very creative, artistic child who loves reading, drawing, and using his imagination while playing with whatever toy strikes his fancy. His father, on the other hand, is a very active, sports-minded person.
I can see how much my husband wants our son to be more like him and I understand that to a degree, yet his constant urging of our son to go out with him to play ball or to ride one of our horses instead of, “reading a boring book,” is making our son avoid his dad. The other day he confessed that he’d told his dad he hadn’t felt well enough to go outside because he hadn’t wanted to disappoint him by just admitting he hadn’t wanted to go.
How can I handle this with diplomacy and tact so that no one gets hurt?
This is a situation that needs to be worked out between your husband and son without you making either of them feel you’re taking sides. You’re not talking about an unloving father, but about one who wants to be involved in his son’s life in the way he’s most comfortable with. In addition, having a balance for your son between indoor, creative activities and outdoor activities that challenge his physical capacity is a beneficial thing, not something to be avoided.
What you can try to do is to help both of them see the positive in each other rather than in focusing on their different likes and dislikes. Encourage your husband to honor what gives your son pleasure rather than diminishing them by calling them boring. Perhaps he can even try to engage his son in some activities that the son really enjoys first. He might encourage your boy to draw a horse then they can both go outside to see the horses together, even going on a ride if that’s what they both want.
You can also help your son see the benefit in both being honest with his father as well as being willing to try some additional, fun things. When you encourage, even indirectly, lying, you’re setting up a very damaging dynamic between your son and your husband. It will add to your son’s guilt and make him see his father as someone to be further avoided. It also puts you in the unfortunate position of being mediator between two adversaries rather than as a loving wife and mother helping two much loved individuals understand and value each other more.
Many blessings, Asrianna