Day 60

My Biggest Fear

Being stupid is my biggest fear, and now that I have decided to follow my dream, that fear has reared its ugly head. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt as if I’m really not as intelligent as someone in my position should be. I often feel lost when my colleagues talk about various pedagogical methods, and although I’ve read a lot, I rarely remember the names of the authors or the specific terms and theories about which I read, so I cannot name drop and discuss theories as eloquently as my fellow teachers. I often remain silent and just listen enjoying the opportunity to get new perspectives and new information, but in my mind I feel so stupid and so inadequate that I do not dare open my mouth. It is a feeling I have struggled with most of my life, and I was hoping I had come to terms with it in the work I’ve been doing, but alas, that is not the case.

Intellectually, I know that just because I am afraid that I might be stupid does not mean that I am stupid. However this is a feeling, so rationalizing it is not the way to deal with it; and denying it, or suppressing it is a form of self abandonment, so uncomfortable or not, I need to sit with this feeling; this fear of having a below average IQ. So, for now, I’m not going to talk myself out of this feeling, I’m going to sit with it, and see what it has to teach me.

Feeling stupid is like being left behind. It is like being the only one who doesn’t get the joke. When I want to say something, I have to think carefully about the words before I say them, and even when I say them, they sound really pedestrian and nonsensical. I stumble on my words and get confused easily. I feel like I’m thinking through a fog, or as if my neurons are misfiring or firing at a really low frequency rate. When I read academic papers on the brain, I have to read sections over and over again, and then I have to ask someone else, usually my husband, whether or not I really understand what the section discussed. Usually when I do that, it turns out I do understand what I’ve read, but I can’t trust the other person because I feel like they’re humoring me.

I am terrified to get into a an intellectual conversation with my colleagues for fear I might say something really ignorant or stupid thereby revealing the truth about my intelligence or lack there of. So I feel small and insignificant. I also feel like an imposter, constantly on guard for fear my secret will be revealed. Because of this fear, I avoid situations where my intelligence might be judged, and I avoid taking risks. Part of the reason I have been in Japan so long is because I do not feel competitive in my field in the United States and Canada. I did not want to face the truth about the fact that I just don’t cut it in the upper echelons of academia.

Now, I am committed to following my dream and that might take me back to the ivory towers of academia, and I am terrified.

Until next time, I wish you all the best.

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