I used to have a superiority complex. Yes. I just said that out loud. Pheww! But…let me backtrack a bit to give this context.
Growing up, we didn’t have much. Well, the big house and the flashy cars would have deceived many people but we who were members of the family knew we didn’t have much. Okay…we could eat three square meals and our mum always made sure we had nice biscuits, chocolates and sweets. We had cable TV and we went to the amusement park once. Looking at it now, we had a lot! I know many of friends who didn’t have as much.
In spite of all these, I felt we didn’t have a lot. I knew early on that the big house and cars were a great façade. My belief was cemented when we were always the last to get text books, uniforms or other school stuff generally. In fact, there was this term when I was in Primary 4 or so when I couldn’t participate in Physical Education because I (we) didn’t have sportswear. One of my favorite teachers – Late Mrs. Williams – took pity on us the following term and said we could exercise but only at the back. To add to that, we were driven for school fees from Nursery one until we graduated in SS3. Every single term!
(*laughing like crazy. I have always found this line to be intensely funny).
Anyway, we learned early not to ask for stuff like the latest Cortina shoes, or any form of video games, Discman or Pokémon anything. We learned to make do with what we had and for many years; which meant we were not among the cool kids.
Cue in ‘Cool Kids’ by EchoSmith – though they were two decades ahead of the time – and you have my biggest yearning as a child. I looked at my family, looked at the near future and decided the only thing that was going to get me out of that predicament was my intellect.
So I read. Books, magazine, newspapers, pamphlets, labels on food, medicine and cosmetics, banners and whatever I could lay my eyes (or hands) on. And then I watched a whole lot of television. Do not mind the naysayers; you can learn as much from television as you can from books. Some people are imaginative while others are visual. I think it is unfair to expect everyone to learn like you. Anyway, I learned and opened my mind to the possibilities that lay beyond my immediate environment. I knew what a pizza was
(even though I only recently had one. Hey! Don’t laugh!) and I could vividly describe cities I had never been to, people I had never met and events I could only aspire to attend. If you didn’t know that at that time, I had never even left Kaduna, you would have thought I was well travelled and very knowledgeable. So the more I learned, the more people were willing to be friends with me. Well, some said I was funny but I don’t think so. Anyway, while I wasn’t a rich kid, I was gradually becoming a popular kid and best of all, a ‘cool kid’.
Then I got cocky.
I began to measure people and choose my friends based on how ‘intelligent’ they were. I must clarify that I don’t necessarily mean ‘book smart’. I chose friend who knew stuff that was cool; like Kenny who producing music at age 13, or Nathaniel who made innovative stuff from bad electrical appliances or Shayo who could make you laugh with the most mundane things ever. I also chose friends who knew a lot of bad things (*wink). Soon enough, I was friends with almost everyone.
That however didn’t stop me from mentally correcting them when I thought they goofed. It happened with everyone; friends, family, people I had a bone to pick with and those I had nothing to do with. I was so cocky in my ‘intelligence’ that I became blind to my flaws.
I needed that chip pulled the hell off my shoulders and you can bet life was willing to play bad cop.
The first chisel to my inflated sense of importance was my grades in school. You see, all through primary and secondary school, I didn’t need to read too hard to come out top of my class. All I needed to do was attend lectures and I was smooth sailing. Then I got to the university. I was so confident in myself that I didn’t even go to class. Then my first semester result came out. What a wawu! I knew I had goofed. Instead of correcting my mistakes, I buried myself in even further. I was at every social event and partying into the early morn. My results kept getting worse. When I finally got the party girl tamed, the deal had been done. Now, while school results are not a true test of intelligence, it would have been good to apply myself to my books. I graduated poorly – don’t worry, I will give you the full gist someday – but my mind was open to the possibility that I was not as intelligent as I thought I was after all.
Then I got a job on radio. I was an on-air-personality shaping the minds of listeners in Yola, Adamawa State. Apart from my problem with ‘R’ – damn you letter ‘R’ – I thought I was fantastic on air. Yes, that was told to me a couple of times but even if it wasn’t, I would still have felt fantastic. And no; it wasn’t self-confidence. After a year doing what I love, we had a training on Presentation from a consulting firm that is a really big deal in the country. Our trainer listened to us on air and told us that our pronunciations were barely there (at best) and horrible at worst. She said even the best of us scored around 35% and that we had so much work to do. I wanted to go ham on her but I took my recorded shows and listened to myself. I cringed at every mispronounced word and the gbagauns I uttered. I imagined the listeners doing the same when I was talking. I felt ashamed of myself.
Then I went to audition for a spot on Ebony Life TV as an anchor. I chronicled the entire thing in ‘When A Perfectionist Fails’ but I can say it here, nothing broke my spirit like standing in front of a group of judges and not being able to bring my ‘A’ game. It was a mortifying experience for someone who had to travel from Yola to Lagos – by road – for two minutes of a judge’s time. Not to be put down, I went again before another group of judges to audition for a director role on a reality TV show, again for Ebony Life TV, and again, I goofed! I know! You have to shake your head.
To even make matters worse, the one talent I thought I had was acting. I felt if you woke me up from sleep and give me a role, I would deliver it perfectly. So when Africa Magic was doing an audition in 2015 for what was Hotel Majestic (I didn’t know that then), I hopped on a bus again from Yola and headed to Abuja. I was pretty confident and when it got to my turn, I delivered a fantastic performance; or so I thought. When I was done, the casting director said ‘Thank you’ and for a full second, I stared at him mouth agape. If you are in the film/movie/TV world, you know what ‘Thank you’ means at an audition. I was barely in my friend’s car before the tears started flowing. I cried and cried and it didn’t wipe out the pain. If my acting couldn’t land me a role, what did I have?!
By this time, I was feeling only slightly superior. I decided to go to film school and improve on my craft. You caught that right? Laughing out loud. I thought I could go to film school and wow my teachers so much that I would get featured in some of their movie projects. In my head, I wasn’t paying for tuition but for an introduction to the filmmaking world. Boy was I in for a shock. First, I met a girl called Dian. Girl can act for A.F.R.I.C.A! When she went up to deliver her monologue immediately after I went up, I felt ashamed that I had gone up in the first place. I was like, what?! And then I got super envious. Seeing Dian perform made me realize I wasn’t half as good as she was. I wanted to be as good as she was and I knew it had to be one of two options; hate her for being that talented or be her friend and learn from her. I chose the latter.
The final straw was when I saw what young people were doing with their blogs and video logs. I thought I was doing a great job with Shades of Us, but it turns out I wasn’t. If I am being honest, I wasn’t even doing an average job.
I looked at myself and saw the truth that pride had blurred. I wasn’t the brightest of them all. I wasn’t the coolest, nor the most intelligent, talented or impressive. I was average. One among the millions like me. One NOT among the millions who were better than me. And my superiority complex took the final blow that broke its will. I went from carrying my shoulder too high to jejely walking with my slouch.
Why am I writing all these? The answer is quite simple as I am sure you know. I could go the cliché route but I won’t. However, I will state categorically that I have learned a whole lot from getting my super ego doused. Knowing that I am not the fly person I think I am makes me truly humble and not the faux humility I had been showing all along. There is nothing wrong in being proud of the knowledge you have as long you are using that knowledge to uplift people and solve problems. I am not solving problems; at least, not in the way I want to. Nipping that superiority complex off my shoulders wasn’t too hard to do when I was faced with my current unimportance in the grand scheme of things.
So if you are like me, bring your shoulder down. You can learn a lot from knowing your strengths but even more from knowing your flaws. No human being is an island of knowledge. No human being should even think that. So nip that superiority complex now.