#2: STORIES FROM OUR SUBCONSCIOUS: WHY I NEVER BELIEVED I WAS SMART

I spent most of my life up until my late-twenties believing that I was not at all smart. I couldn’t do anything that required any sort of brain power. I had worked in jobs that didn’t require much brain power and until then, I honestly thought it was just the way things were, and would always be.

I used to have so much self doubt and a complete lack of confidence, which meant I didn’t follow through with much, because I didn’t believe I could. I’d start things and never finish them, because they were ‘hard’.

I would see people achieving great things with their lives and think ‘wow, how on earth can they do that? That’s amazing’. I used to think other people were some kind of special.

They must’ve had some secret I didn’t know….. ‘oh, that’s right, they’re smarter than me’.

I simply grew up believing that I wasn’t smart. I can’t recall a time that someone told me that I wasn’t, but it seemed to be a commonly accepted thing. I went through my whole childhood and school years thinking I wasn’t smart, so I didn’t bother trying (because ‘what was the use’) and school just ‘wasn’t my thing’. When I did finish high school, My Tertiary Entrance score was so low, that it wouldn’t have got me into any university course (not that I wanted to, because uni was “only for smart people”), so I got a job instead.

Over the next few years, I worked a receptionist job and then became a florist. Which involved me actually going to a TAFE college to learn. I did okay, mainly because the curriculum wasn’t rocket science and I enjoyed it. I had a taste of what enjoying learning might be like. Before long, I was back in an office job, because quite frankly it was better pay than floristy ever would be and I was starting to become ambitious.

Suddenly I started yearning for a university degree. Like life wouldn’t feel complete unless I had a university degree. I guess you could say I was writing out my bucket list, before that was even a common term.

When I left my first husband at age 26, I knew there was some ambition there. I’d been thinking of university for a while. But me? Go to uni? Could I really do that? The girl who only scraped by to finish high school and only showed up for school a few days a week because she didn’t like it! Yes, that girl – could she really go to university?

I applied for a job as a Human Resources Assistant. It was an admin role, which at that point I had been doing for a few years, but it was also in the HR area, which I had finally decided was going to be my uni major. Part of the application process for this job was some psychometric, aptitude and ability tests, which were all different, timed tests to solve some problems, equations, puzzles, etc. I remember being so panicked that I thought I’d vomit. But, I really wanted that job, so I just put my head down and tried as best as I could. The only thing going against me at that stage, was the timer on the ticking clock.

Low and behold, when I did get hired for that job, they went through the test results with me and said I scored better than any other applicant. My scores ranged from 93% – 97% on the various tests.

I think I dribbled a little as I struggled to pick my jaw up off the floor and my first words were something like “are you kidding me?”

Turns out, I actually was smart! All along! I just had no idea, because I always believed I wasn’t and therefore I didn’t bother finding out if that belief was true or not. So in effect my belief became my truth. Or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My parents were always ones to “keep things realistic” which meant we were never encouraged to follow any dreams or passions or even to believe in our own abilities. There were no pep talks or words of encouragement – ever! Obviously, that was just how they’d been brought up.

Having confidence and believing in myself were things I learned the long, hard way, but that learning journey has been so very worthwhile, because I now know what it takes to make the transformation from nothing to something.

After landing that job, I surprised myself even further, when I was applying for university entrance. I sat the Tertiary Entrance exams (which by this time ranged from 1-25, with a 1 getting you into Vet Science and 25 not much at all). I scored a 5, which would’ve got me into any law, science, engineering, business, IT, journalism, marketing type degree I wanted.

What The Actual F*%$??

I just kept surprising myself. I surprised myself even further when I actually finished my Business/Human Resources degree several years later. I had never really finished anything I’d started in my life. Except my favourite tv shows, dinners and other people’s sentences.

I love the saying by Henry Ford; “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”.

We all form beliefs about things as we are growing up. We are told the sky is blue, the grass is green, the world round. We believe these things as absolute solid facts, because more than likely our parents, grandparents, teachers or other adult close to us told us these things and we trust them, so they must be right.

The same thing goes for all the other bullshit that we have been brought up believing. Most of which, we don’t even know about!

Everything we believe today is based on a story that was either told to us, or we created at some stage in our lives. Often times, if we want to create a new result or action in our lives, we need to create a new story, and finding the origin of the old story goes a long way to helping that process.

Ironically, these days I geek out over psychology, human behaviour and all things brain science, constantly learning and growing. Who’da thought huh?

Each Friday I’ll be publishing a new edition of the “Stories From our Subconscious” series on my blog, so if you’re interested in discovering your own ‘BS stories’ from childhood, be sure to check them out and you might find you can relate to my stories, or have some similar to your own.

Until next time,

Makaela