When you were a child, you may have been told that you were stupid or unfavorably compared to a sibling or classmate. Perhaps you were more of an intuitive, creative type who didn’t fare too well in the logical, rule-based school system. If you’re female, you may have gotten the message directly or indirectly that women aren’t as intelligent as males or that intelligence is an unattractive quality in a woman.
Growing up, my oldest brother was smart, and I don’t mean just kind of smart. I mean scholarship-to-MIT smart. He was especially good in math and the more techie subjects. I wasn’t, and there was no way that I could even begin to try live up to his legacy. Not even close. My other older brother excelled in the performing arts and attended the prestigious North Carolina School of The Arts after high school. That artistic stuff wasn’t my thing either. Following them, I had a hard time figuring out just where I fit in or what I was good at.
While I went to the UNC-Chapel Hill on scholarship and graduated with honors with a business degree, I never felt particularly smart and had always thought of myself as “the dumb one” compared to my brothers. To this day, I don’t believe that ever found a true expression of my intelligence within the educational system. I just learned how to work it and be successful within it. Our society tends to recognize and reward very few types of intelligence when actually, there are many.
According to The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner, we each have at least seven distinctly different kinds of intelligence. Each operates from a different part of the brain and is relatively independent of the others, with its own timetable for development and growth. The first two types of intelligence have typically been valued in schools; the next three are usually associated with the arts, and the final two are what Gardner calls “personal intelligences.”
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: The ability to organize, quantify, and understand numerical symbols, abstractions, and logic.
Linguistic Intelligence: The ability to understand and use language.
Spatial Intelligence: The ability to perceive the physical world and to imagine how things fit together.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: The ability to use one’s body in highly differentiated and skilled ways, for example, as a dancer, athlete, or mime.
Musical Intelligence: The ability to recognize and reproduce musical tone, rhythm, and pattern.
Intrapersonal Intelligence: The ability to be in touch with one’s own feelings and sense of self.
Interpersonal Intelligence: The ability to notice other people’s feelings and experiences, and to communicate with and influence other people.
Note: Since this blog was written, I have since learned that Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has been proven wrong, but I still think it’s good information to consider.
“Neuroimaging studies do not support multiple intelligences; in fact, the opposite is true.” He describes how intelligence is a general property that stems from a part of the brain called the frontal cortices, and that we apply this intelligence to different tasks such as music, language and logic – our brain does not have specific multiple intelligences.
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Every individual has certain intelligences more innately developed than others. The areas in which a person excels may not be those valued by society or which succeed in the educational system, but that doesn’t mean that person isn’t intelligent.
Within each kind of intelligence are clues to the unique gifts a person has to contribute to the world and can be key to helping someone determine their purpose and passion in life. Ironically, an individual is often the last to recognize and acknowledge their special talents and abilities because we tend to be somewhat blind to the things we do best as they’re normal to us. It’s just the way things are and have always been.
Give some thought as to what you think your natural intelligence and unique talents are. You may want to ask a friend this question, and their observations may surprise you. Think back to activities you liked and gravitated towards as a child. These are clues to your true gifts before you were influenced by the “shoulds” of society. What things do you do well or enjoy now?
Try to identify core beliefs you have, conscious or unconscious, good and bad, around your intelligence. These beliefs may be strongly influenced by the experiences and influences of your past and your opinion of yourself. Whatever they are, you can consciously choose to change your beliefs at this aspect of yourself and begin to insert and follow your own wisdom and intelligence.
Discover and encourage your unique inner genius.