Cosmo Convo

Is our “Ikaw na!” cul­ture keep­ing us from be­com­ing the best ver­sions of our­selves?

Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - News -

Since when was be­ing smart girl a bad thing?

It’s a strange di­chotomy that, as a so­ci­ety,

we pro­claim that we prize the mod­ern woman for her brains, her go-get­ting spirit, her sparkling wit, her strength of char­ac­ter—in con­trast to decades past when all you needed to know was how to keep a house­hold as pic­ture-per­fect as your ap­pear­ance and maybe how to throw a din­ner party.

At the same time, we shut down as soon as some­one brings up a topic apart from the go­ings-on in our fa­vorite tele­seryes or so­cial me­dia feeds, be­cause why on Earth would any­one want to talk about a topic as un­sexy as Syria, or clas­sism, or, god for­bid, any of the STEM fields? Quote a lit­er­ary phrase, men­tion a word like “par­a­digm” or “zeit­geist,” or throw in a statis­tic, and pre­pare to see glaze­dover eyes and ex­pe­ri­ence an end­less, awk­ward si­lence al­le­vi­ated only by a bad joke along the lines of, “Wow, ang lalim, nalunod ako.”

the BIG Idea

Two ar­ti­cles writ­ten by au­thors who pretty much em­body in­tel­lec­tual ideals—a Palanca award-win­ning writer and a sci­en­tist, specif­i­cally— made on­line rounds a few months back, tack­ling the very sub­ject. Two very dif­fer­ent pieces, but they shared the point that it is our col­lec­tive fear of the un­known that keeps us making those un­funny quips and deny­ing any at­tempt at a dis­cus­sion be­yond what we’re used to talk­ing about. Sure, there are other things to con­sider, such as per­son­al­ity, ed­u­ca­tion, so­cio-eco­nomic fac­tors, and our uniquely Filipino amal­ga­ma­tion of East­ern and Western cul­ture but, at the end of the day, it’s be­cause we’re afraid of any­thing we don’t quite com­pletely understand. That’s why we veer away, why we try to change the topic back to some­thing we al­ready know, why we want to talk about things with univer­sal ap­peal.

Many shared those sto­ries, posted a witty cap­tion, and called it a day. So true! we thought be­fore go­ing on with our lives, shar­ing lis­ti­cles and videos of kit­tens, soon for­get­ting the pieces that moved us enough to merit so­cial me­dia real es­tate.


For some of us, though, some­one fi­nally putting a name to the feel­ing we get when our friends look bored at the men­tion of a fas­ci­nat­ing doc­u­men­tary on the history of stolen art or Pride­and­prej­u­dice was, in a word, lib­er­at­ing. Smart peo­ple have feel­ings too, and it hurts when we see some­one roll their eyes at our new­est (read: nerdy) ob­ses­sion, or turn into the hu­man equiv­a­lent of a screen­saver when they hear us men­tion Stephen Hawk­ing or how we cham­pion au­teur the­ory.

I mean, I get it. There are days when we want to talk about of­fice gos­sip, or how cute that Ja­dine mo­ment was, but, for many of us, there are also mo­ments when we want to gush about that afore­men­tioned nerdy new ob­ses­sion. Be­lieve me when I say most smart peo­ple don’t want to sound like smar­tasses. They really do talk like that, and they really do care about the things they’re talk­ing about—they wouldn’t want to share them with you if they didn’t. That doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make in­tel­lec­tu­als ar­ro­gant weirdos, and some­how says vol­umes more about the per­son do­ing the shrug­ging off than about the so-called nerd.

higher and higher

Why, though, are we so afraid of the un­known? Is it be­cause we don’t want to ask ques­tions that might po­ten­tially make us look stupid? And is our fear really more im­por­tant to us than de­vel­op­ing our­selves as hu­man beings? If there’s any­thing a truly wise per­son never does, it’s to stop ask­ing ques­tions, im­age be damned. All not ask­ing ques­tions does is keep us from learn­ing and from grow­ing.

And there’s noth­ing wrong with that. There’s noth­ing wrong with try­ing to be greater than who and what we are now. There’s noth­ing wrong with learn­ing some­thing new, some­thing be­yond our com­fort zones. If any­thing, noth­ing says fun and fear­less more than a woman who is al­ways look­ing to be­come a bet­ter version of her­self—it’s only the smart thing to do.

Is it be­cause we’re afraid to look stupid?

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