Thursday, July 19, 2007

Inferiority complex - part 1

I am confessing to an inferiority complex. Yes, folks, me. The sometimes belligerent, usually friendly and self-assured person that you may know (I think the only readers I have are close friends and family).

And I know some of the contributing factors, but that still doesn't make it any less real for me. I will always feel that I don't measure up, am not good enough, not attractive to others, etc.

My first real-life memory (believe it or not) was during pre-school days. Must have been about 3 or maybe 4, but definitely before kindergarten age. My mother was walking along a city sidewalk in the town of Duluth, where we were living at the time. My sister (1 year younger than me - or should that be, than I?) and I were with her, back in those everyone's-mom-is-a-homemaker days. And then it happened. The dreaded encounter with a complete stranger (female), cooing, "Isn't she cute?". Now, folks, this comment was not intended for yours truly, but for my admittedly much cuter "baby" sister. And even way back then, at such a young age, I remember a moment which (if I had known the phrase back then) would qualify as the "What am I? Chopped liver?" moment. I felt devalued, because the remark was one-directional, and I certainly knew that it was not intended for me. And thus this complex had its roots.

Now I know that I offer many things to many people. My husband (and, while married to him, my first husband) thought I was funny, attractive, bright and other things that I really do, deep-down believe I that am. But I have always felt like I came up short in many areas.

Maybe this is because I was the first born. I don't know. I do know that my parents (and probably my father more than my mother) pushed me, in school, to get good grades. In fact, if I didn't bring home all A's, I felt that I was not doing well enough. I don't know why, exactly, that I believed this, because I am sure that an occasional B would have been perfectly acceptable. I was dreadfully uncoordinated and did not excel in phy ed classes. I didn't have any ball handling skills, any gymnastic talents, etc. So if I got a poorer grade in that "class", nothing was ever said.

Like many girls of my era, I wanted to be popular, cute, and a cheerleader. And yes, my sister was all of those, plus a homecoming queen candidate, just as I was none of them. I was the class "brain". By the time I was a senior, the rest of the females in the class had dropped out of any advanced math classes, leaving me as the token femme. And, as such, I was the target for the guys trying to "gross me out" with antics and double entendres. Which left me with a thick skin and a tolerance for risque jokes, I guess. I was the class valedictorian. And in case you want to bring up that fact that this might be an easy accomplishment with a small class of 48, keep in mind that a few of my classmates are now employed as a physicist, psychologist, several nurses, etc. We're not talking a bunch of dummies here, folks. I myself did well on my college boards and was a National Merit Scholarship finalist, which at that time was less than 1/2 of 1% of graduating seniors.

Although I eventually was a college drop-out, entering college was such an eye-opener for me. Guys did not care that you were intelligent - it was assumed that you were, in fact, as you couldn't get accepted at most schools without having good grades. Wow - was this what real life was like?

But I still carried around that big ol' IC (I don't want to keep referring to is as "inferiority complex", so I'm going with my own acronym). I carried that into my relationships (trying to be the perfect partner/cook/baker) and also into my work life. I recall getting my first performance review as a programmer. I was in my 20's, so you can do the math and figure out the year(s). With that employer, you first rated yourself on your performance, then your immediate supervisor evaluated you, and then you discussed it. My supervisor, a very nice, patient guy with great new ideas for programming, read my statement and remarked, "Wow - you are your own worst enemy!" He found no fault at all with my progress, but obviously I had. Hmmm..... the big ol' IC - not good enough, not smart enough... hush, Stuart Smalley!

I try to let go of my unwelcome passenger, IC, but it pops its little nasty self back up at unexpected or inopportune times.

Here ends my first installment on this subject.

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