By Nicole Zasowski for Darling Magazine

“I’m not smart,” she said, her eyes wide with pain.

I never get used to the heartbreaking words I often hear from the little brown couch in my counseling office. Labels can be difficult to peel off once they stick. We wear beliefs about ourselves like tattoos – messages about who we are that have become a part of our identity.

Intelligence is no exception. Somehow “smart” has become something that we either are or are not. It’s easy to understand how our perspective has been shaped the way it has. After all, most schools and many workplaces tend to measure and celebrate a very specific kind of intelligence. Not all of us have been given a safe place to display our particular brand of “smart.”

Scores and rankings fail to define a person. Who we are cannot be described with a number. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that we need a broader definition of what it means to be intelligent. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking ourselves if we are smart or not, and start asking what types of genius we see in others and ourselves.

We are wise to consider different types of intelligence in order to better appreciate one another for the people we are instead of how we perform. Some of us think easily in terms of numbers and reasoning. Others of us are skilled in understanding our own thoughts and feelings and how people interact with each other. Some of us are able to ponder deep questions about life’s meaning and others can understand space and organization. While still others are musically inclined and have an ear for pitch and others have unique body awareness and coordination.

When it comes to intelligence, it’s not a matter of “if.” It’s a matter of “how.” Intelligence isn’t about measuring people, it’s about appreciating people – noticing one another’s gifts.

Seeing one another for who we are and the unique talents that we have to contribute changes the way we interact with each other and ourselves in a variety of ways.

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