Me Duele Tonto

Little known fact: I am a huge Shakira fan. (Okay, okay, so it’s a very well-known fact.) And one of my favorite songs (La Tortura) is entirely in Spanish. As an ignorant American who took Spanish for years and years in school and then immediately forgot most of it, I can’t really tell what’s being said, but it’s a beautiful song. And so, it was when I was happily listening to it one day that I realized that I did understand some of it. In fact, I understood the following lyrics:

Ay amor me duele tanto

It means, as you may have already deduced from your own 6 years of rudimentary Spanish, “love hurts so much,” or quite literally, “love makes me feel so much.”

And do you know what I thought it said when I listened to it? “Me duele tonto” AKA “I feel foolish.” (which may not even be grammatically correct, because again, ignorance). So, I was definitely wrong, and you may be thinking that there is now no reason for this blog post due to one simple Google search for song lyrics. (Well, this got awkward fast.)

But here’s the rub! “Tonto” also means “stupid.” And I’m like, Eureka! That’s it! That’s my entire life rolled into a nutshell of a nutshell. That’s my autobiography title, a simple double meaning conveniently couched in another language. Thanks, Shakira!

Because that’s my entire problem. Every time I feel stupid, I also feel foolish. They’re inextricably linked for me, as they are in Spanish.

Seriously, I want to avoid any situation ever where I feel like there’s a chance I could look stupid. (This is also known as any situation ever because there’s really no way to know everything about everything, and so I look stupid when I try, but I definitely try.)

And so, I self-sabotage a lot because I can’t seem to overcome the idea that if I ask questions or if I seem like I don’t know something, I’m automatically stupid, and therefore, I feel foolish. Quite literally, feeling stupid is synonymous with being stupid in Spanish and in my own head.

So, how do you overcome this? How do you tell yourself that it’s okay to seem stupid AND foolish? Well, as one of my other favorite women (J.K. Rowling) once said, “I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?” I’d like to think “stupid” could be substituted for “fat” in this quote.

Because there’s a million ways to look or feel stupid. But asking questions so you don’t make mistakes, no matter how “dumb” they sound to your own ears, does not mean you are stupid (tonto). And that also means that you shouldn’t feel (tonto) foolish, either.

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