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September 23, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Personality

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I am not an idiot!

Question:

I was born to a working class family in Chicago, IL in 1948. I am the younger of 2 girls, and the less favored. My sister is brilliant. I probably had ADD and was more of a quiet type. I was educated in catholic schools. My parents encouraged us to attend college. I was the first in my family to graduate in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in Education. I substitute taught for 1 year in the Chicago public schools, but decided teaching was not for me. I felt too much like "one of the kids" and couldn't effectively assert my authority. I returned to college on a career search in the late 70's. I mostly studied Educational and Behavioral Psych. Even though I completed the requirements for a second degree, institutional policy prevented them from awarding me another bachelor's degree. I continued to hold office jobs, being paid hourly wages.

In my early 30's, I was panicked about not finding a career. As things went, I ended up getting married at 33 and moving to Alaska. The change in my life situation and limited opportunities in Alaska stalled my efforts to start a career. My children are old enough now for me to start looking again. Currently, I am working as an accounting paraprofessional and would like to advance in my field. I have always been shy and have had difficulty socially although I am not an unattractive person. People do not seem to dislike me, but are distant. I think I have improved in this area, as age imparts wisdom!

I have scored high a number of intelligence tests, but always seem to score very low on "Logical Thinking". I can work quickly, effectively and creatively with well-learned subject matter. However, when it comes to initial organization of new material or quick verbal responses, I get confused and tongue-tied. This seems to be a stumbling block in my career. I am too slow on the draw to compete. How can I build these thinking skills? (I do not wish to be medicated in any way - such as for adult ADD). I am not an idiot!!

Cindy, 51-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Cindy,

Of course you're not an idiot. You've proved this time and again and again, and yet you still felt it necessary to shout it in the title of your request for help. To me this says that inside you feel, "Whatever has happened, I'm an idiot". Let me tell you another story about your childhood. You never had ADD, quiet girl type. You were a quiet girl, with a wonderfully imaginative mind, and often you attended to your own mental creations instead of to things outside of yourself. There were TWO brilliant girls in your family: your sister and you. However, sister was your parents' pet, and they flaunted her achievements until you started to believe that you weren't any good. Or perhaps she was even more brilliant than you, that does happen. Or perhaps she was a quicker developer.

I know a man who is now 45, and has a doctorate. He is highly respected in a complex field. And yet, as a boy, he didn't manage to finish high school. He dropped out and got a manual job. Ten years later he met a girl who had trouble studying. He studied with her, and she (now his wife) says that without him she would have failed. This encouraged him to return to study at night... and the rest is history. What does this tell us? That everyone is different. You don't have to have the same strengths as your sister, your boss, or anyone else. You seem to be one of those quiet achievers who need time to think, but give them time and they think very well indeed.

Cindy, if you are no good at logical thinking, how did you put together such a good, logical request for help? Who told you that you score low on "logical thinking" in intelligence tests? Look, I'm one of the most intelligent people I know, but blessed if I can do puzzles involving visualization in 3 dimensions. When I play chess, I don't see relationships like most other good chess players, but reduce moves to "if this, then that" type statements.

So what if you're mental processes are different from the norm? Anyone who tells you this is a weakness rather than a difference should not be qualified to administer intelligence tests. What matters is that you are bright, not what methods you use to reach your results. Cindy, YOU ARE NOT AN IDIOT. You have proved this, over and over. You HAD to prove it over and over and over, because you continue to believe this lie. Try to believe the evidence instead. You listed a lot of evidence above. When you go back to further study, you'll outshine all the young ones. When I taught at university, all my best students were people like you: ones with life experience behind them, who returned to study at personal sacrifice. And if you lived near me and I was looking for an employee, I'd snap you up. I think you're a gem for your employer. Don't change. Just think of yourself with kindness and acceptance.

All the best,

Bob Rich

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counsellor.

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