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So, school’s making you feel stupid.
I’m really sorry to hear that, as feeling dumb can have a huge negative impact on your self-esteem.
Now, before we get started, the first thing you need to know is that you’re not alone.
The schooling system in the Western world makes so many people feel inferior or not enough. Like they’re dumb, and maybe even that they’re worthless.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that you don’t thrive in an academic environment means nothing at all in the grand scheme of things.
It’s no reflection on your overall intelligence. Despite what’s been drummed into you throughout your life, intelligence isn’t just about being good at exams.
Just because the approach to learning at school doesn’t suit you and you’re not great at math or writing essays, or whatever academic skill it might be, doesn’t mean you’re dumb.
Quite the contrary.
This is an open letter to anyone at school or college who’s ever thought (or worse, ever been told) that they’re stupid.
But even if you don’t keep reading past this point, just remember this: you have so much to offer, and a number or grade on an exam paper can never, ever decide your worth.
Intelligence isn’t just one thing.
There’s an idea in our Western society that intelligence goes hand in hand with book learning, and that if you don’t do well at school, it means you’re unintelligent.
When in fact, there are so many different types of intelligence that you might be blessed with. Many of these will get you further in life than a talent for schoolwork ever will.
You might be highly emotionally intelligent and empathic, and have fantastic people skills.
You might have creative abilities, with a powerful imagination and excellent motor skills.
You might thrive when you’re doing physical activity, with excellent hand-eye coordination.
You might be a wonderful problem solver, thinking laterally to find solutions to barriers you come up against.
Whatever your strengths are, know that they are just as valuable and important as the ability to cram large amounts of information into your mind to regurgitate during an exam.
And whilst being good at cramming is great whilst you’re at school or in college, it might not be as useful as some of these other skills later in life.
Because in our society, academic skills are only really important to get you to a certain stage of your life.
Unless you choose to go into academia as a career, other skills and abilities will become so much more important once you enter the world of work.
The fact is, school doesn’t prepare us for the majority of the hurdles we’re going to face in this life. And, it might be the very characteristics which mean you struggle at school that help you thrive when you’re out in the working world.
Everyone’s mind works differently.
Everyone’s mind is unique, and that’s something we have to recognize and celebrate. No one looks at the world quite like you do, and no one else can offer your particular combination of skills.
And that means that you have your own set of strengths. Those strengths probably won’t look anything like the strengths of the person next to you in the classroom.
You might learn in a slightly different way to others. Some people need to read something or watch it being visually explained before they understand it. Others learn by listening to someone speak. Then there are those who learn best by actually speaking and repeating what has been said or by trying to explain a concept to someone else. And some people learn through physically doing something.
It could be that the teaching methods used at your school or college don’t fit well with your learning style. So many people have been made to feel dumb at school just because they can’t absorb information in the particular way it’s taught to them by their teachers.
It might take you longer than some people to pick up certain skills or absorb certain information, but you might be better at retaining information once you have absorbed it.
Your mind might be great at the more creative subjects, or you might have a real way with words, but struggle to understand numbers, or vice versa.
And your particular strengths, especially if more creative, might just not be valued as much in a school environment as a talent for math or science is.
Remember that just because your strength isn’t academia, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, no matter how you’ve been made to feel. You have so much to offer, and you’re only just getting started.
Life begins when you leave school.
When you’re young and still studying, it can feel like if you don’t do well in your exams, then your life will be over before it’s even begun. Like everything’s riding on how the next essay or test goes.
But I’m here to tell you that in ten years’ time, those exam results that seem so vitally important right now just won’t matter anymore.
Sure, good results at school can help give you a boost in life, and can open certain doors for you.
But there are so many other ways to carve out a career for yourself that have nothing to do with academia.
Less-than-perfect exam results might close some doors to you, but make sure to look around and notice the windows that they open.
Nothing is going to be given to you on a plate, but with an open mind and plenty of determination, you can do anything you want.
Identify your skills, and use them in your favor.
So academia isn’t your thing, but you have all kinds of other skills. And to thrive in life, you need to be totally clear on what those skills are.
If you struggle to pinpoint what they are, then you can talk to some of the people you love. Ask your friends and family what they see to be your strengths. You might be surprised by their answers.
And then think about what they mean for you. How can you take those skills and use them to get yourself where you want to be in life?
You never stop learning, in your own way.
I always thought that once I left school, I’d know everything there was to know. Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Life is one long learning curve. You learn through your professional experiences, of course. But your education about so many other things will go on forever. You really do learn something new everyday.
A great example of how learning can be something you come to love later in life, in your own way, is my brother.
He did terribly at school. He hated sitting still and learning conventionally – he just didn’t see the point of it.
But he’s gone on to forge himself a career as a traditional boat builder, and is carving out his own unique path in life.
And, as well as being good with his hands, he’s one of the most intelligent people I know. He’s the one person you definitely want on your team at a quiz night, because he knows so much.
He’s constantly listening to podcasts and reading books, filling his brain with historical facts and figures, and he can name nearly any species of tree he spots.
The point is, just because school isn’t for you, doesn’t mean you have to give up on learning altogether.
You’ll learn throughout your life, and you’ll find your own way of doing it.
You’ll discover your own interests, and you might even realize that you have a passion for biology, geography or languages that you never tapped into at school.
If you just have faith in yourself and are able to recognize all the skills, strengths and abilities you do have, you’ll be able to use them to your advantage, and go forward to have a fulfilling life you’ll love.
And at some point you’ll look back and wonder how you ever could’ve thought you were dumb, when you’re anything but.
Still not sure how to stop feeling dumb? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
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