My husband and I were talking about something recently that hit a trigger of mine. The thing is, I hadn’t realized it was a trigger until after this situation. I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but I remember the feeling I had. It was the feeling that he was saying something in a tone or in a way that made him come off as though he was all-knowing and that my thought or my lack of knowledge on the subject brought out my stupidity. I felt like he was telling me I was stupid and his thought was the only thing that could be right.
He most definitely was not telling me I was stupid, but I reacted defensively, like I always do. We stopped the conversation and I was bugged. So instead of continuing to react towards him, I started thinking. Why do I act this way? Why do I quickly jump to the feeling of others telling me that I’m stupid?
I came up with the answer that points to baggage I haven’t yet unpacked. There are two reasons. The first is that I was never taught that just because I don’t know something, it doesn’t mean I am stupid. In fact, the only thing I witnessed was being called stupid for not knowing something. The second thing is that my father was the main figure in my life who would tell anybody and everybody they were stupid and that his opinion was the only right opinion. It could have been about anything, simple or not, he would not acknowledge that anybody else could think anything else. The wind is blowing north. NO! It is blowing south and you are wrong. Stuff as simple as that.
I know that I’ve struggled with feeling stupid all of my life and feeling like pretty much anybody was telling me I was stupid because my opinion or whatever was different. It really shows when I don’t know something. My anxiety gets triggered if I don’t know something that someone else does know. Even if the thing is something that there is no reason for me to know. Like how to start a chainsaw. I have never operated one. But, it is something I felt stupid for not knowing.
As I sit here and type this, I’m realizing that my need to not appear stupid to anybody else has probably left me coming off arrogant at times. This is crushing to me because I don’t want to be an arrogant person. In trying not to have anybody like my father, or anybody in general, tell me I’m stupid, I probably have made others feel the same exact way I do.
Now that I have identified this trigger and the potential way I react towards others, I need to do some work. I need to open my mind and be aware of when I’m triggered for either reaction. If I start to feel stupid for any reason, I need to ask myself why and why I feel that I should have known the thing or why I feel I can’t have a different opinion. I also need to be aware of when I feel so strong about some thing that I am being pushy or possibly arrogant towards others. How am I making them feel? Am I making them feel the way I don’t want to?
I really hate the word stupid and I defend anybody else when they say they are stupid for not knowing something. But I don’t treat myself with the same respect. I take the feeling and grind it into myself to “teach myself a lesson” that I should know more. The person who really needs to stop treating me like I’m stupid is myself. I need to learn to give myself some grace and realize that it is okay to not know things. I’m not stupid because I don’t know everything my husband knows. I’m not stupid because I don’t know everything my boss or my employees know. It is okay to not know things.
Just typing that gives me a flutter of anxiety. This is going to take a lot of work to heal from years of not knowing where this came from. The work will be easy for some things and really difficult for others. Either way, I can’t wait to overcome this trigger. I can’t wait to not feel stupid just for not knowing all of the things. I can’t wait to be confident even if I don’t know something. Let the work begin.