Warning: Long reflection/rant ahead. If you want the short version just read the first and last paragraphs.
It really bothers me when people (mostly my roommate/best friend who I spend most of my time with) remark at how bad I am at math or lacking in knowledge of science. But then I realize that the only reason they think what they think is because of my actions and what I have told them.
As an English major I bash my math skill on a daily basis, but I’m not actually bad at math. Granted, I’m not great at math, but I’ve never had major problems understanding any math class I’ve taken. I got an A in every math class I took between seventh grade and tenth grade. Then I took a two-year break from math, which resulted in a poor SAT score and a C in my final semester of math. But I fully believe that if I had studied more I would have done fine on the SAT’s (I literally hadn’t had a single math class in two years at the time of the test, and I didn’t study for the SAT’s because I was going through a very difficult time in my life), and that class I got a C in could easily have been an A if I hadn’t had such a long break from math. In college I’ve gotten A’s in the low division course I had to take to make up for my SAT score and the statistics class I took last term as a general ed. requirement. These are low-level math classes, but not everyone gets A’s in them or even passes. I’m not bragging, that’s not the point of this post (and I don’t think anything I’ve said is worth bragging over), I’m simply trying to show that math has never been an issue with me. So why do I act like I’m barely proficient in math? Why is it that no one I’ve met in college would ever believe me if I said I like math (which I honestly do – to an extent)?
I have the same problem with science. I used to love science, but even as my feelings changed I was able to achieve A’s in every science class I took. I realize that grades are not always indicators of who is smartest or best at a subject, but they at least show that I’m competent. So why is it that if you ask my roommate about my knowledge with science she would tell you that I’m a complete idiot?
To be blunt: it’s all my fault. Yes, my lovely roommate can be a bit harsh, but she didn’t just assume I was stupid. I sometimes catch myself acting stupid and wonder how long I’ve been doing that. Do I just start acting stupid out of nowhere? Or am I constantly in a state of pretending? I don’t know the answer, but it is time to change. I’ve come up with two possible reasons why I act like I’m stupid (in hindsight, I’d hardly call these “reasons”, but here they are nonetheless):
(1) I may have acted stupid in high school too, but it was never an issue because people knew I was smart. Although I was quiet and never shared my grades with anyone unless asked (which was rare because people rarely talked to me), it was fairly well-known among my classmates that I got A’s on almost everything. Because I was so shy and quiet, I rarely joked with anyone. So, I wouldn’t have pretended to be stupid because I simply didn’t talk much, and even if I did act stupid the people around me knew I wasn’t. Not to mention the fact that in high school the people I surrounded myself with were the AP and Honors kids, and we mostly took all of the same classes. So one person couldn’t claim that their classes were harder than another’s. In college, my best friend is a science major and therefore takes high level math and sciences class, whereas I take high level English classes. She doesn’t say so out loud (often), but I know she thinks her classes are harder (and I can’t say that she’s wrong in thinking that). So it’s easier for her to judge me. If I act stupid, she’s going to believe I’m stupid because she has no reason to believe otherwise.
(2) People have told me that others are intimidated by someone who is smart and gets all A’s. I was so eager to make friends in college that I didn’t want to push people away by seeming too smart. So I put this wall up around me faults (real or imagined) because I felt it would make me more likeable. No one likes people who are (or think they are) perfect. Not that I am, or have ever thought that I am, perfect. My list of faults is long, and I will be the first to point out things that are wrong with myself. But for some reason I felt that I needed to downplay the one thing that I was actually confident about. I’m not great at science or math or history, but I am great at being a student. That is one thing that I know for sure. I can get an A in a subject that I’m not talented in, I can do well on tests without studying, I will stay up as late as I need to in order to finish an important assignment. Personally, I’ve never really liked people who were good at something without really trying. So I think that part of me felt guilty about being able to be an A student with less effort than others (not to say I didn’t work hard at it), and I wanted to downplay my academic achievements. I never share test grades unless someone asks, because I don’t want to be that girl bragging about getting 97% when the person next to me got 70% (or worse, that person who complains or criticizes themselves even though they did better than most of the people around them). And then there is always that advice in the back of my head: “boys don’t like smart girls”. I don’t know where I first heard this, and I’ve certainly never taken it to heart. But when all the evidence around you seems to support this statement, it’s hard to push it aside entirely. (Also, I would like to add, this wall I’ve put up around myself comes down a bit when I’m around my roommate, because she is the best friend I’ve ever had and sometimes you just don’t want to close yourself up. But when I do share my grades or my GPA with her I can tell she doesn’t particularly like it. Perhaps it’s because she thinks her classes are more difficult and she deserves my 3.95 GPA more than I do. Perhaps this is one reason why she, more than anyone else, remarks on my supposed inability to think scientifically. Because she knows my GPA and yet I still act stupid in some ways. I can see how that would be annoying: someone who is seemingly not-very-bright but is doing better academically than you. Although, I think we both know that an environmental science degree is more highly regarded than an English degree).
I suppose it doesn’t really matter why I act stupid, and I’m not sure that either of the above stated “reasons” are reasons at all. Either way, reflecting on issues such as this often leads to clarity. What conclusion have I come to? No matter the reason I started acting stupid, no matter if I’m actually stupid or not, regardless of test scores or grades I know myself better than anyone and it is up to me to depict myself how I want to be seen. Old habits are hard to break, but the only solution is to stop acting like I’m incompetent in math and illogical about science. I deserve to be seen for who I am, and accepted for who I am, but first I need to see myself and accept myself as I am.