by Amina Tumi, 32 yrs, London, Hairdressing Salon owner
I feel like I have been living in a box – with all of my unresolved issues going around and around but not really going anywhere or getting anywhere with life or myself. I have been experiencing life in a way that has not taken on board whether I am truly living the real me, and this brings up questions.
I never thought I could write or even read as I always believed I was dyslexic. This thought held me back in many ways as I had labelled myself as being less than others because I was not as clever or intelligent. What is true intelligence anyway?
I would feel I was not good enough if I could not read a word or spell in school… or after leaving school as a young lady. I remember being in a restaurant (on a date in my teens) and not being able to read the menu properly and feeling like I was really stupid and that something was wrong with me.
What I have been told (and seen as someone with dyslexia) is that the condition makes it difficult for the person to learn the same way as others, and they have difficulty in reading. I can look back now and say that I would get so nervous when being asked to read – that I would not be able to see what was written clearly on the paper – and I would get so jumbled when trying to express the words.
HAVING DYSLEXIA AND THE PRESSURE TO BE AT THE HIGHER LEVEL
Why is it that our society puts pressure on sensitive, very feeling-based children, like I was, to be a certain way in the world – and that if you don’t measure up in that way according to society, then you really stand out as not being good enough?
Could it be that society has a ‘perfect student’ syndrome going on, one that you need to aspire to and get to and feel like a failure if you don’t? In school the kids would say you are dumb if you are in the bottom classes and that to need help from teachers means that you must be pretty stupid. What about how those kids feel when being judged in this way? What support is on offer for them?
I know that feeling this way doesn’t end in school, in fact, it feels as though it is just the start. I was in the ‘middle’ when it came to class level, not the labelled ‘stupid’ class, but not the ‘intelligent’ one, either. I found there to be more students at this ‘middle’ level but I also felt that I was only there by the skin of my teeth, and that was a pressure that I lived with on a daily basis.
At the age of 15 I got into hairdressing and I loved it. I was not looked at as being ‘less’, and it was a more practical skill where I felt in my element. However, I still had this dyslexia issue hanging over my head. Whenever we had to read or do any theory in class, the anxiety would come up and I remember reading something out to my team and stuttering and stumbling so much that no one could even look at me. They just looked away in embarrassment for me, and I felt ashamed and so very stupid after that.
I had taken on a forced way of being that really damaged me as a child because I was not left to develop at the pace that was right for me. Worse, I was made to feel inadequate for not being where others were by being put in lower classes.
Why are we put under so much pressure as children to be at the ‘higher’ level? And is the ‘level’ we are pressured to be at a true way of being anyway?
I remember having a home teacher a few evenings to help me, and although this was only a couple of times it really started to build my confidence. I realised for a moment that “I can do this”. However, as my mum was unable to keep this going, I slowly went back to how I was, but that marker stayed with me – that I just needed more time, but also to have a teacher help you in a way that makes you feel understood. This was huge for me.
DECONSTRUCTING THE PERCEPTIONS AROUND DYSLEXIA AND BEING STUPID
I have and still am in the process of, deconstructing the false me that has taken on ideals and beliefs that I am stupid somehow – and this has added to my feeling that I have been made to please others by what I do, say and think… and of course, how I look.
I feel as a result of the attitudes and perceptions around dyslexia and perceived learning difficulties and the pressure I felt to ‘perform’, that I was robbed of my true loving nature. It would have been amazing if one of my teachers had asked me ‘How are you doing as it looks like you are struggling a little?’
How is it that we as the adults can choose not to truly acknowledge and connect to the children who are very clearly struggling around us? What are we not wanting to see? Is it that we don’t know how as adults to truly support these children with a different learning style? Is it perhaps that our schooling system doesn’t currently accommodate the children that learn in a slightly different way?
What if we treated everyone as equal at all times, no matter the age or abilities, but also had a deep understanding where one is at any given time? Would we then be allowed to grow up and be the unique, amazing, sensitive, playful, gorgeous little things we truly are?