shame on you, smart person!

There’s been something weighing on me for the past few weeks since I spoke with an old friend. It’s something I couldn’t pinpoint right away and I didn’t even know it had a name until she said it.

Smart shaming.

It has always bugged me as a part of the culture I came from. I grew up with examples of it around me. As children, we were taught the importance of intelligence. That’s how you’ll get in the best schools. That’s how you’ll get in the best programs. That’s how you’ll get a scholarship. You’ve got to study and work hard – that’s how you’ll get ahead.

There’s a list of schools… almost like the Ivy League in the Philippines. There’s the top three or four universities, and there is a prestige if you get in.

But the moment you mention you’re a part of any of these top universities, you get some side-eye. “Galing mo naman, iskolar ng bayan.” “Ikaw na, taga-UP.” “Aba, ang talino mo naman.” These statements are literal compliments, but it is 99% always said in the same sarcastic tone I’ve heard.

We’ve been told to strive for great things, but once we hit the standard, once we “make it”, we’re shamed for getting there.

It’s not only restricted to education though. I’ve seen and heard people being mocked for beautiful artwork. “Naks, ikaw na ang painter!” In speaking a foreign language. “Nosebleed ka naman, pa-English-English ka pa.” Hell, even being mocked for their looks. “Siya na ang maganda!”

So we put our heads down. So we don’t tell anyone unless asked, and if we are, we say it in the softest voice possible so that no one thinks we’re bragging. Why isn’t it normal to celebrate our wins without someone else feeling offended?

There’s no winning. You work hard and achieve your goals, then you’re put down for it. You don’t, then you’re shamed for it. Modesty is a virtue, they say, so don’t brag about it. I’ve met Filipinos who have made and achieved awesome things but they keep their heads down and don’t want to push to get what they deserve.

There’s a girl born with an incredible talent for creating beautiful art. Although she’s sold some pieces herself, she didn’t want to “broadcast” her art on her own socials. She has a separate account for her art, but refuses to promote herself on her personal.

There’s a guy who aced his way through school and landed a great, stable job through hard work and great support from friends and family. He got some shade from relatives after they found out he bought a car for his parents as a Christmas present. Apparently, it’s rude to spend your own money your own way, because it offends other people around you.

That’s the thing. We’re taught to downplay our success for those who didn’t succeed. God forbid, it offends them. It would be a shame to hurt their feelings.

But this is reality: life isn’t perfect for everyone. If the other team wins, we should take the loss and learn from it to do better next time. If we get rejected for a job, we must accept it and understand it wasn’t for us. If we get turned down by a potential date, we’ve got to walk away and move on with grace. Do better.

Mocking or shaming or being all condescending about it isn’t going to push you or your agenda forward. It pushes you away from the people who could help you too. Do better. Be better.

You’re not any less of a person just because someone else won the lottery.

/rant over

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