There’s something about the constant inadequacy that I have always felt, but lately, it has been gnawing at me more than usual; so much so, that I am feeling compelled to put together the words to determine its root and significance in my life so as to take the first step in moving beyond this inferiority complex. But in order to do so, I feel it necessary to break the entry into two, given that I found there to be a point in which I had become more self-conscious of my self and behavior, and the point at which I began feeling lesser than others in terms of accomplishments and worth.
Reflecting on my speech habits, the memories that stick out the most were my problems in pronouncing the words “Tuesday” and “three.” I had never really been made conscious of the fact that I could not enunciate these words “correctly” until I was about eleven or thirteen. Perhaps it was the fact that I had had a retainer, which pulled my lower jaw back, so as to fix the underbite (not so charming, given that the only other picture of someone with an underbite is a Neanderthal), and thus had modified the speech to which I had adapted myself for my first eleven years of life. The awareness wasn’t immediate; it took the examination of someone else’s pronunciation for my friends at the time to deduce that I had a similar “problem.”
I recall one day in fifth grade in which this boy who supposedly had a crush on me raised his hand to speak. And when he was acknowledged, he stated the number “three” to whatever math question was asked. Our teacher at the time felt English to be incredibly important (well, his wife was a high school English teacher) and thought to help the kid in his pronunciation. What ensued was a couple minutes spent with the boy, in front of the class, repeating the sentence over and over so as to correct his pronounciation. Of course, it couldn’t be corrected so easily, though; he kept on saying “free,” instead of articulating the swifter sound of the “th” consonants.
The problem with my speech came to rise some time later when my best friend at the time took note of the fact that I couldn’t articulate the same word. Of course, it was made clear to me in the most juvenile way of “you and X speak the same, and therefore belong together.” Mind you, crushes and the idea of boyfriend/girlfriend are just mindboggling concepts for the eleven year old, and thus leaves them mortified. I came home that day trying to rid myself of that link between him and I by repeating the word compulsively, thinking that I would magically get “it.” That tactic didn’t work, and I spent the next couple years trying to avoid saying “three” whenever I could to avoid the teasing that I had incurred on that day on the school bus.
To think that incident would be the only time in which the way I pronounced words would be crudely pointed out would leave one believing wrongly. I didn’t take the school bus anymore by the seventh grade, but I did occasionally walk with friends who still did to the crowded parking lot. We were talking when suddenly conversation dropped and I was poignantly asked by my friend what was wrong with me. Puzzled, I asked her what she meant and she went on to tell me that the way I pronounced “Tuesday” was wrong. Apparently, the way I said that particular day of the week sounded more like “Choose-Day,” as opposed to having the sharp first syllable. Again, I couldn’t help but go home to “correct” myself.
And such has routinely happened whenever I hear someone pronounce a word differently than I have, or has openly pointed out that I am “wrong.” I don’t think there has been a point in which I assert to myself that I may be right. Instead, I go home, and find myself sitting in front of my computer repeating the words incessantly until I feel that I am closer to repairing this “wrong” in me. Eventually I did figure out how to pronounce the words “Tuesday” and “three” in the way that everyone had expected. But as a result, I became far more self-conscious and incredibly attentive of what others say, as a means of picking up on their speech patterns and to spot discrepancies between my speech and theirs. In a sense, there also stems my need to please others, as I try to comply by mimicking others’ ways of talking.
Of course, there is the issue of me on the phone. I seemingly never want to talk on the phone and go to great lengths to avoid doing so. Part of my avoidance comes from the fact that if the verbal is my only means of communication and providing an impression, I feel that I am at a great loss because of my “inability” to pronounce. There seems to be this constant underlying fear that I will jumble syllables and switch up words, but then again, who hasn’t?
So here lies my realization, in short, of one of the essential components of my overbearing inferiority complex – the critiquing self in full drive.
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