Am I smart? Am I pretty?

I went to Paris. Photos here.
I’ve returned to reality (boo!), started a new job, and Christmas is right around the corner! How exciting can things get around here?

I know it’s not like this everywhere, but my little corner of the world supports women for the most part. My husband is wildly encouraging. I work in a field that is mostly male-dominated, but it’s a rare day on which I notice a slight or discrimination due to gender.

Nevertheless, when I read The Trouble with Bright Girls, it resonated with me. I never consider myself “good enough”, whatever that even means. I am my own worst enemy. This is not only true professionally but in every aspect of my life. I abhor what I perceive as weakness or lack in myself but I cut everyone else so much slack. I am kinder to others – colleagues at work, those I love, strangers on the street – than I am to myself.

Even now, after working for over a decade at various jobs related to science. Even after accolades at work. Even after numerous academic accomplishments.

I don’t think of myself as very smart.

Sheryl Sandberg mentioned something like this in her book, Lean In. It’s the idea that we as women carry some of the burden for limiting ourselves. We internalize the hidden messages we’ve heard throughout our lifetimes. Women aren’t the only ones doing this, by the way. Men have their own set of nasty messages.

Here’s another interesting link: What she Hears When You Tell Her She’s Pretty.
Do you need proof? I have typed and deleted a disclaimer for the two paragraphs above three times. Why? I’m not comfortable with the fact that this discussion might in some way imply that I think I’m bright or pretty. While I’ll not be nominated for a Nobel Prize anytime soon, I’m smart enough. A career as a supermodel isn’t going to happen, but I can get through my days without causing anyone to throw up or recoil at the sight of my visage.  I know you don’t need to be told that – I’m the one who needs to figure that out. 

It’s entirely possible that I have spent the past decade desperately trying to prove to myself that I am smart, therefore capable and worthy. Sad, yes, but not uncommon, I suspect. Many good things  – a whole new life, essentially – have come of this odyssey and all’s well that ends well, right?

But enough is enough.

2015 will be an interesting year for me. Rather than focusing on concrete goals and tasks (sell this many paintings, finish that degree), I’m turning inward. This will be a challenge for me because I have a much easier time with things that can measured or checked off of a list. Internal things feel murky and squishy to me. Ick.

I need to focus on transforming even more into the kind of person that I want to be. I want to learn how to be accepting of myself and patient with the pace at which things happen internally. And when I dig down deep inside, I don’t really want to be any smarter, I just want to accept that I already am and that this characteristic is dynamic. It changes with time and experience and isn’t worth much without some other essential qualities. I want to be kinder. I want to be more self-aware. I want to be funny. I want to sit quietly sometimes and not accomplish a thing.

All art in this post was created by the talented Christos Tsimaris, one of Ink & Alchemy’s Featured Artists.

Have a great week and remember – you’re pretty incredible.

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