Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I could be perfect

I battle with feelings of inadequacy a lot more than I show. So many times in my life, I've been placed in a situation where I don't feel intelligent when compared to my peers. Sometimes I even feel stupid.

In class today I had to participate in a role playing experiment where half the class pretended to be political candidates and the other half debate moderators. I was one of a three person group pretending to be Newt Gingrich.

I know a little about Newt. I've read up on his campaign, watched clips of him in debates and seen him in interviews and covered on shows like The Daily Show. The nonsense of his campaign does not evade me.

Yet when I have to impersonate someone that strange and (strangely enough) complex while trying to remember what his talking points are and effectively not stumbling over my own words (a problem I have when I'm playing myself much less some trained political leader), I freeze. I falter, using made up words like "Muslimism." I fail. I feel stupid.

I really have no reason to complain. I go to one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. I'm majoring in journalism which is a difficult study and practice in itself. I write tons of articles, do lots of adequately performed school work and try as hard as I can to learn outside of the classroom.

One of my favorite ways of learning is the BBC Two program QI (or Quite Interesting) which asks a group of panelists questions and then rewards their knowledge (and occasional lack thereof) with the full facts answering the question that was asked. It is hosted by a proper posh Englishman named Stephen Fry who is in equal parts hilarious and totally genius. When I watch the show, I marvel at his eloquence even beyond his recitation of facts (which I'm sure he's memorized before the show). He has such a knowledge of history, art, language, etc. and I can barely imagine having that much intelligence in my brain.

Because the truth is, hard as I try, I often feel way in over my head. Somehow I crank out articles and papers, receive adequate grades on tests, but how it happens I don't really know. Half the time I don't even know what I'm talking about, or at least I feel I don't.

I think part of the reason I've been able to work through these feelings for years is that I always try to be perfect. It reminds me of this song I really love from a musical known among theater majors but not so much by anyone else. Incidentally, it's called "Perfect."

The song is sung by a girl addressing her significant other who has treated her like an imbecile and made her feel unworthy and unintelligent. In her final pleas for him to not break up with her, she sings "It's true I don't know enough, don't really get the stuff they say on CNN. But I'll work, get so much smarter, I can try harder. If I mess up I'll try again."

Whitney Bashor singing "Perfect" from Edges.

I enjoy CNN, but in other ways I sympathize with the protagonist who sings this lyric. She is an ordinary girl, not particularly fluent in witticisms and cleverness, but no idiot either. Yet she can't help but feel the glares of her peers. "My waiter watched me read my book, he gave that look like 'how pathetic'," she sings.

Even though I am reasonably academically proficient and I try insanely hard to be intelligent outside of school, sometimes I feel this way too. I make comments in class and my cheeks turn hot and blood red because I feel like I'm rambling like a dim-witted high schooler.

I know most of this is in my head. Like the girl in the song, paranoia and fear is probably more involved with my feelings than my actual intellectual level is.

But I feel this way just the same.

The other day I decided to test my reading speed because I've always considered myself a very very slow reader. I read all the text aloud in my head which is considered a sign of deficiency in literary comprehension. When I checked the number of words I read per minute, I was unsurprised to find out I am a pretty slow reader.

It was hard to come to terms with that, so I started trying to read without saying the words aloud in my head.

But these little tricks and tips don't always work. We have to put in a lot of practice to truly be "perfect" by our own standards. And even then, we'll never really be exactly where we want to be.

I think I'll always have the problem of considering myself less than others. Whether it's in intelligence, beauty, social ability or anything else, it's easy to compare yourself against anyone who is superior to you. But everyone is different, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and feeling stupid does not necessarily equate with actually being stupid.

Inadequacies and words like "Muslimism" aside, I'm still above average. And even when I hate myself for doing dumb things, sometimes I just need to slap myself in the face and realize I'm pretty perfect as I am.

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