People call me an idiot

A letter writer doubts his intelligence level – and our elder can relate. 

From finding outside interests to taking a creative writing class, here’s how to build your self-confidence.


Dear EWC

Good afternoon, I have realized something over the years. I have overestimated my intelligence and embarrassed myself on- and offline. For the past three years, I constantly think of how people have made slick remarks or upfront called me an idiot and laughed at me in front of their peers. When I say it took a blow at my self-esteem, I began to underestimate myself and let a college professor make an assumption. She believed I was in class due to a low placement score. She didn’t know it was required for my major. I am taking the next step to accept my intelligence level. I am not Einstein but, I do not want to feel I cannot perform the simplest of tasks. What is the best advice you can give me? 


Good-Listener replies

I read your letter and felt you were channeling me when I was around your age. I doubt you’ve overestimated your intelligence – and in fact you are likely smarter than you realize. I too was humiliated by others, occasionally by teachers and professionals, until I was diagnosed with a learning disability (they didn’t know of such things back in the Stone Age). I’m not saying you have any kind of learning issues – I would have no way of knowing that, nor am I in any position to analyze or make judgments but often folks learn differently even if it’s not a “disorder”. But it’s awful when we’re made to feel less than and it can take a terrible toll.

You’re still young and there are ways you can get around this and feel better. First off, if you have any doubt and want to get tested, go for it. Likely at your school there are counselors and ways to speak to an education professional and find out if in fact there is a “block”. Try to be conscious and mindful of how you learn – what works and what doesn’t. Engage in intellectual pursuits that you enjoy, that make learning more engaging. One of the things I did was start to read – a lot. I’m still a poor reader, but felt so self-conscious in school that I would only read what I had to. After learning of my “issues”, I decided that I always wanted to know more and started reading all sorts of books – with the understanding that it was all up to me and I didn’t have to do a book report! 

Try to pursue any interests and engage with people with whom you might find stimulating. Join groups that will allow you to expand on any intellectual activities. In other words, try to be around people and situations that will embrace your brains and not try to beat them down. I also started taking writing classes just for fun. But it helped my writing, and, again, I was around really bright people. I developed a thick skin, so I could be in a class and be criticized for my work, but if you’re with real writers, it’s constructive criticism and not baiting and nasty words. Simply put, find what works and builds you up. There’s no reason to take this kind of abuse, and the more you fight against it by strengthening yourself, the less it will matter, and the less those inflicting the harmful words will matter to you. Good luck.

Best Regards,


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