Feigning Failure

In Calculus, I excelled
though I’d never say –
intellect, the monster,
rendered me target.

Lesson learned
I feigned disinterest
mimicked others’ struggle
tucked the tests results away

Principles of calculus
no longer apply –
shame of capability
still a failing grade.


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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

20 thoughts on “Feigning Failure”

  1. Intelligence was highly valued in my family. Unfortunately my father was very sexist and always treated my mother as if she was stupid. I remember him saying to me when I was about 14 “you’re very intelligent for a girl”. He thought it was a compliment. So I think I’ve always subconsciously felt the need to prove that I’m smart. Being told by my first husband that I’d never be more than a bright mediocrity pushed me that way too – to the point of doing a PhD in physics when I’d have been better off in a different field, because I always struggled with calculus. Wish I’d found it easy like you VJ! So I think I had the opposite experience to many here – inflating my apparent intelligence to hide my sense that I’m not really smart enough to be where I am.

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      1. Thank you, but I know I struggle with things many colleagues find easy. Mind you, that makes me a better teacher – I understand how it’s possible to just not get it.
        The underlying shame and fear – the impostor syndrome – is really damaging. I hope things are changing enough that my daughter can just be who she is without fear or shame.

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  2. I can relate. Back in the day girls being smart wasn’t acceptable. We were supposed to be little ladies and stay quiet. It wasn’t until later on in my career that my smarts were appreciated.

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  3. We carry this with us for years, don’t we. I was the target of the mean girls in 5th grade after the teacher assigned me to GIVE the spelling tests. I was a good speller. I never bragged or advertised it, but she outed me. Miserable outcome.

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