01 May 2014

"You're smart."

People tell me I'm smart all the time. "How did you know that Latin word off the top of your head? You're so smart!" "Of course you wrote an essay in one sitting. You're so smart." "Where did you learn that curare is a poison? You're so smart!"
While being a bit tiring, people calling me smart doesn't bother me very much. What bothers me is the mindset it puts me in.
My sister once showed me a study someone did in which they gave a puzzle to a group of men and a group of women. The women, used to being called "clever," "bright," and other such things, gave up quickly when they couldn't figure out the puzzle. The men, usually being considered academically inferior, worked hard for a long time to figure out the puzzle, and succeeded.
I see a similar theme with "smart" people. If everyone around you considers you intelligent, bright, or clever, then you subconsciously have this idea that if you don't comprehend something right away, it's not your fault. Maybe it's impossible. Maybe it's a trick question. But you don't need to try harder.
When things come easily to me, I appreciate it and take advantage of that. But it gets me used to quickly understanding things, so when I try to do something that isn't my strong suit, I am less likely to keep trying so I can succeed. I give up quickly because it does not make sense. I see faults in other things, not in my lack of motivation. When you are good at a particular area of academics, you don't need motivation because you don't really have to try to do something well. But that takes the motivation to work hard away from the things you should work at.
Of course, I'm not saying that praising people is bad. I'm just saying that maybe if I hadn't been called smart so often I would be a better student.
Oh, that's another thing. Being smart and being a good student are different. 
A smart person gets good grades naturally. He may not try very hard and still get good grades, because it is easy for him to do well. A good student, on the other hand, is one who works hard to do well in school. You don't have to be smart to be a good student, because a good student works through the difficult things and pushes himself to do better. People generally call smart people good students, but that isn't necessarily the case. I, for instance, have an A in Latin, but I don't try very hard at it. I'm not a good student. I don't put tons of effort and time into doing well. I just do. Latin is easy for me. Someone for whom Latin is not easy can get an equally good grade if he does work hard. Such things are different for everyone.
When people call me smart, I often say to myself that if they tried harder they would be "smart," too. Good academic performance doesn't make you smart.
And now I'm off to finish the chapter I've been trying to get done for days! Happy May Day!


  1. Ah ah ah you're smart and a hard worker: a winning combination! :-)

  2. Love this Bia! Very wise. It's good to be so self aware, because that can help you work harder. One thing I've realized (a bit too late...) about school is that you get out as much as you put in. I know I could have benefited from some classes a lot more than I did because I just worked the minimum amount I needed for an A... which was generally a lot less than other students. I did that even for the classes I liked but I learned less because of it! So watch out for that trap, but I think you're well on your way to that. Xoxo.


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