When I was 2 I snuck into the kitchen and ate an entire bottle chewable vitamins full of iron. My mother smelt the iron on my breath and rushed me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped. I have heard this story approximately one thousand times in the last 29 years. I vividly remember parts of it. I remember the taste of the metallic tube down my throat, I remember screaming in pain and pulling on my father’s beard as he looked down at me with fear and helplessness written all over his face, devastation in his eyes. I remember hating the doctor and thinking he was mean and unfeeling. I remember looking around the room for my mom but she was nowhere to be found. She has told me one million times since that she could not be in the room because she was completely heartbroken and terrified. But more than anything I remember this was the first time I ever felt “stupid” I did not have the word for stupid but I did feel that sensation for the first time that day and tens of thousands of times since.
I grew up feeling stupid and inadequate, I am dyslexic and I was not diagnosed until college so needless to say School was extremely challenging for me.
- My third grade teacher wanted to put me in special ed because I was so far behind with reading, writing and math. My mother is an elementary school teacher and worked with me tirelessly after school to help me catch up. (it worked, i was able to move onto fourth grade with my friends)
- I was almost held back in 6th grade because my math test scores were so low but at this point my mother couldn’t help me catch up because she too struggled with people adding letters to math. ( I was able to move forward to 7th grade because we happened to move to a new district)
- In seventh grade my teacher called a parent/teacher conference and told them she thought i should be in special ed because my handwriting was so bad I must be “retarded” (her words not mine)
- I almost didn’t graduate high school because I could not pass Algebra 2 to save my life and my teacher pretty much just gave me a passing grade out of pity.
- It took me 5.5 years to get my Bachelors degree because I had to take and retake math so many times. (I still don’t think math should have letters in it–either be math or be an English assignment you can’t be both you greedy bastard)
I was finally diagnosed with dyslexia when I transferred to my four year university and was accepted on academic probation conditions. I had to take a “how to study” class and the teacher suggested I be tested for a learning disability–and she was right.
I have countless examples when I felt stupid and I struggled, no matter what I’ve accomplished in my life
- Graduating college
- Rising through the ranks of Corporate America
- Starting my own business.
The voices in my head that remind me of my failures and stupidity are loud. Today I had a session with my coach where we explored this belief of being inately stupid. Did you know we develop our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us by the time we are three? 3!!! That is sooo much younger than most people would assume.
We did a deep dive into where this belief of mine came from and we found out that it all stemmed from that early childhood memory of getting my stomach pumped. All of the struggles I had in school after that only validated that early childhood belief that I was stupid. Our brains are meaning making machines and my brain has taken all of this information and used it to show me that I am stupid. Isn’t that so incredible?
Our brain has what is called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) this is a pencil sized piece located just above where the spinal cord is attached to the brain stem and it acts as the gatekeeper between the sensory systems and the conscious mind. So the RAS makes meaning (both positive and negative) out of a situation and searches your memory to validate this belief. Example- I am eight I cannot pass a math test all of the other kids can pass–I am stupid.
So here is my takeaway and rewiring of this old story. We all have an inherent right to make mistakes-make a lot of them and learn from them. Two year old Mallory did not know that eating all of the flinstones vitamins would potentially kill her and lead to a crisis, she learned that day. I have spent years doubting myself and hating myself for all of the challenges I have had when it comes to my own education and career. I have cried so many tears just hoping I could magically not have dyslexia anymore and learning could be easy for me, but that has never happened and it will never happen. AND this does not make me stupid, it makes me a human that is having an experience.
My RAS for years has validated this belief that I am a stupid person, it searches and finds evidence of this experience. Now I have the opportunity to retrain my RAS to find new experiences to validate a different belief.
I am choosing to unlearn the belief that I am stupid, and trade it with- I make a lot of mistakes and I learn a lot from them this makes my curiosity and creativity coming alive.
Do not let your old beliefs hiding in your subconscious determine the rest of your life. You have the divine right to make mistakes and learn from them. You have a divine right to believe in your future and go after it.