Intelligence Is Subjective; Don’t Let It Define You.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized a lot about myself when it comes to my intelligence. And the truth is, intelligence is subjective. Intelligence isn’t something you can pinpoint with a test score, with a GPA, with the number of zeroes in a salary. Its not only based on book smarts, but street smarts, emotional smarts, wiseness. Being knowledgable about a subject can be considered intelligence, being good at something can be considered intelligence, and knowing how to handle hard situations can be considered intelligence.

 In fourth grade, I was considered smart enough to leave the room for special learning opportunities with other “bright” students. I felt proud to be in that program, I felt like I had a gift. But in fifth grade, I was not invited back and began to question myself. Even at such a young age, it felt like a setback from the path I had been on.

In middle school, I struggled with math as my friends aced their tests, even taking a summer school course to get ahead in an attempt to prove myself again. I could do what they could do, I could be considered smart. I knew that I went home and worked a lot harder than all of them, that I was driven to be like them, and yet I fell behind. In eighth grade, I was the only one in my class to fail my Algebra 2 final. I went to the bathroom and cried, and coming back to the room I got a lot of looks. My teacher spoke to me in private about the situation, and she was the first one ever to tell me it was okay. That sometimes that happens. That that didn’t define me. But I was still disappointed in myself.

In high school calculus, I received my first “C” ever. I was so mad I gave up. I slept during tests, didn’t pay attention in class, and threw the AP test down the drain. It had been so long of me studying, going to my teacher after school, practicing problems on my own, and nothing helped! I almost went back to the tutor I had freshman year in math. Little did any of my friends know I even had a tutor, and I don’t think I’ve ever admitted it since then. I wanted to be so like them, straight A’s and 4.0 GPA. But I got something out of it they quite hadn’t–a work ethic. I developed the work ethic that now runs my life.

In college last semester, my GPA dropped lower than I care to admit. But I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of knowing I went to tutoring three times a week last semester to try to stay afloat, that I passed (barely!) the hardest undergrad class offered at CSU, that I studied for tests 20 hours a week to get a “D” on it. Its frustrating, its annoying, and it makes me question who I am and what I want. And even if I can’t keep up with everyone else as much as I would like to–I know how to work hard for something I want. I know who I am and what I am capable of. I know that they struggle with their own problems as well, and we don’t all have the same gifts, but my gift is perseverance. Its not giving up. Its not throwing the towel in. Its not quitting. I will give it my all until I fail, and if I do fail, I try again. And that is what I want future employers to see, not the GPA number.

I’m not a genius. I’m not a brainiac. I’m not perfect. I’m a lot of things though–I’m hardworking, I’m driven, I’m passionate. I learn quickly, I practice hard, I try my best. And even if its not good enough, that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough. I’ve learned a couple things since elementary school: Failing a test doesn’t make you stupid, your intelligence doesn’t define you, retaking a class is just a second chance, you don’t fail but you learn something, and you can pass. You are enough. Intelligence is subjective, don’t let numbers change your mind about yourself.


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