When I was in fourth grade, I LOVED my teacher, Ms. Booth. She was sweet and kind and smart. She rarely yelled and always made me feel good. I was tested to be in the “talented and gifted” program but did not get put in. I realize now I do not know for sure if it was because I didn’t “pass” or because my parents decided not to let me do it. Regardless, the message I recorded in my brain was that I was not good enough. Close, but not close enough. College for the sake of learning new things was not an option. I was to learn a marketable skill that would allow me to support myself. While supporting oneself and not depending on a man for a financial plan is admirable, I was robbed of the joy of learning for the sake of learning.
Add to this, I was part of an extremely male dominated religious structure. I have come to realize almost every single natural strength I have contradicts the core belief structure of the group I was born into. From my perspective, women were to get married, have babies, and look modest in a skirt. That was the ultimate honor for a “good” female. Men made the decisions. Men had the power. The only way a woman could have influence was through “her” man and being so “godly” in words and appearance that others noticed. They talked A LOT about sex and how not to have it. I would not have thought about it so much if they had talked about something else for a while that didn’t involve death. Between sex and death, frankly, I’d rather think about sex.
Reading was not fun for me. I was supposed to read pages and pages and pages of material that told me I wasn’t good enough, people were bad and most everyone was going to die soon. There was no joy or excitement created around learning new words. The really smart people were the “bad” ones! They had “worldly” ideas and “no appreciation for God”. The material I wanted to read I wasn’t supposed to read. So, I just didn’t read…
I’ve been away from that constant chatter for a decade now but, as I challenge myself to learn without limits, several old tapes are playing in my head. They say such things as: Boys should be wise, girls should display a “quiet and mild spirit”. You know too much. Increase knowledge, increase pain. Your ideas are wrong. You are too much trouble.
These tapes do not serve me any longer and I’m grateful they have come to my conscious mind but they are also a little painful to process. What terrible things to say to a little girl! Not all of them were said in so many words, but some, sadly, were. The people who spoke them did not know what they were really saying, they were trapped by their limiting beliefs. Today I am writing about my first steps in unlocking whatever potential my mind may have because I know I am not alone in hearing these messages.
Vocabulary is one of my weakest areas so I purchased a book to help me learn words commonly used in SAT tests. As I opened the first few pages, I was bracing myself to feel stupid. Instead, I found this wonderful description of ways to learn new words such as: learn the definition with your own words, imagine a picture or an absurd phrase to learn it’s pronunciation, write it down, use it in a sentence, read more books… And my favorite: “Do what works best for you”. I realized in that moment that I am no longer limited by old tapes that told me what I could and could not be. I don’t know what I can be until I try.
When I trained for my first 5K, I was not expecting to win. I didn’t feel like less of a person because I couldn’t go as fast as the person who did (I do not even know who won that race). I was happy I ran further than I ever had in my life and I knew I could do better next time. My mind is the same! I am not Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein but I can learn more today than I knew yesterday.
This is a gift! This is something that no one, nowhere can take away from me now! I don’t even have to share how I remember words. I can remember them however I want. That, friends, is incredible freedom!
The same things I tell my son to tell himself when he’s feeling “less than” intellectually are helpful to me as well. They are: I am capable. I can learn.
From my heart to yours,
Thanks for reading