Feeling Like You're Not Enough
Back at home, I rarely faced the feeling of “not being enough”. I had everything most girls would want from a high school experience: top of my class, captain of not one but two sports teams, involved in something like 8 clubs where I usually had a leadership role, amazing friends and a great boyfriend. In theory, life was great! Until I came to Brown.
One of the biggest reasons why I chose this university was the supposed caliber of people I would be surrounded by. I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve met some of the smartest, kindest, funniest, driven, ambitious, and most capable people all under the age of 22 at Brown.
Students who’ve created popular apps in the app store. Students who have their own consulting business. Students who’ve already started successful social ventures, embarked on cancer research, and are in talking terms with Sam Altman (I’m pretty sure someone I know is). Don’t get me started on the pre-frosh I met that flips houses for over 100% profit, builds drones FOR FUN, and are quantitative traders on the side. And suddenly, being my high school’s yearbook editor-in-chief didn’t come off as that impressive to me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was enough.
My coping mechanisms
The feeling of not stacking up to those around you plagues me pretty often. Including right now as I’m writing this. But over time, I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms that may help you guys out :)
1. Other people’s successes are not my failures
This is the mantra I live by when I feel like I’m not doing enough. I also eat a lot of ice cream (1 pint of Ben & Jerry’s to be exact. Don’t judge. You’ve all been there). But back to the first point.
I am not everyone. I am me.
The successes of other people is not a reflection of myself. I’ve learned that everyone has their own path, and I am not everyone. I am me. I can choose to create a company at 20. I can choose to create a company at 50. I can choose to never start one and find contentment sitting on a beach all day. All three options don’t make me any more or any less than the people I come in contact with. I just need to be the active agent in my life.
Admittedly, it took some time to get the envy and jealousy out of my system when I meet people my age doing absolutely amazing things and embarking on crazy journeys. Instead of wallowing at how useless I felt, I chose to be inspired and asked how I could help.
2. We’re all human
I think when we see trailblazers, we put them on a pedestal and seem to think they’re immune to all the negative thoughts that plague us. But remember, they’re human too.
The individuals who are actively changing the world also struggle with the same daily difficulties, family drama, and the pressure to succeed.
I’ve gotten to know some of these people really well. The individuals who are actively changing the world also struggle with the same daily difficulties, family drama, and the pressure to succeed. Be their friend, not the person wanting to see them fail. Collectively, we can all do a lot more to help each other and the world around us.
3. We are our worst critics
A fun exercise or question I often like to pose to my friends is, “How do you perceive yourself, and how is that different from how your friends perceive you?”
I’ll do it for myself here.
Self-perception: Lost, confused, risk-averse, perpetually existential, kind, generous, always smiling, ambivert, loves people, mostly loves herself.
Friend’s perception (based on what I usually hear my friends say): put together, knows what she’s doing, risk-taker, friendly, helpful, social, generous, confident.
It’s pretty apparent that for certain traits, my friends and I have opposing perceptions. But the answers are also very telling: we tend to view ourselves in the worst light while the people who care about us will always highlight the positive qualities.
Even some of the “successful” ones don’t know what they’re doing.
More so, everyone goes through this. Even some of the “successful” ones don’t know what they’re doing. I’d know. I’ve asked them. Our perceptions of people and of ourselves are often skewed.
So to cope, I’ve learned to realize that we judge ourselves way too harshly. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself and to give myself a break. And when I forget to do that, I go to my friends who remind me.
4. Continue to surround yourself with the people who make you feel like you’re not enough, but also tell you that you are more than enough
This one is perhaps a little antithetical to dealing with the problem. Normally you avoid the root cause of what sparks the negative feelings. But I’ve chosen to continue surrounding myself with more and more people that frankly, make me feel really inadequate.
These people do a few things for me:
- Make me dream bigger
- Serve as my daily inspiration
- Remove my complacency
- Push me to go beyond an ordinary life
Constantly being around these people has more net positivity than net negativity. They have a way of opening your eyes to the accomplishments that you’re capable of achieving, opening the world that you’re capable of exploring, and opening yourself up to the person that you’re capable of becoming.
They remind me that I am enough, and that I can join the trail with them while I’m looking for my own.
But what’s been the best experience from surrounding myself with these people is that they’ve gone from the people I idolize to the people I can call my friends. And the best part about these friends is that they remind me that I am enough, and that I can join the trail with them while I’m looking for my own.