feeling inadequate

I’m not exactly sure where it stems from. Maybe it’s the culture that I come from. Maybe it’s the environment that I grew up in. Maybe it’s just my personality. But ever since primary school, I remember just dreading new opportunities because of this irrational fear of never being able to be good enough. It didn’t help that I was a very shy, nervous and self-conscious kid. There was always this unexplainable fear that I was never going to measure up to them, and even now this feeling can get so overwhelming it becomes unbearable. Even having conquered so many failures and challenges in my life so far, I am still that same scared kid every time a new situation comes my way. Let me elaborate.

I am currently a junior in college. I’m studying for a double major in Psychology and Cognitive Science, as well as a minor in Chinese. For the most part, I have been able to learn a lot and cope with my college life just fine. There are always instances in which I’m mentally challenged, and though there is always a solution, lately I have not been handling them as well.

I’m taking a computer science class for my major, and though the class is purely graded by assignments, I found myself spending countless hours completing just one assignment. Going to office hours and googling things did little to help me, as I could barely conceptually understand the material. I initially handled this situation by scolding and punishing myself internally, which led to a lot of thoughts of incompetence and “you’re just not good enough.” Eventually, I decided to reach out and get a tutor, despite my initial fear that even a tutor wouldn’t be able to help me pass this class. But now, I have a tutor, am (kind of) learning, and will be able to pass the class just fine. My issue was fixating too much on my inadequacy and blaming myself for my situation, instead of challenging that energy towards finding a viable solution.

This situation is a good example of being challenged with a task that is beyond what you can do, so much that you are tempted to find a loophole or give up. However, I was initially too focused on the task itself (i.e. the assignments themselves) instead of branching out and thinking of ways that would help me perform well in the class (i.e. reaching out for help and getting myself a tutor). There will almost always be instances in which the solution is beyond what you’re capable of at that moment. But there are also other ways to look at the same situation and approach it in a different way, even if all seems hopeless at the current moment. Let me provide you with another example.

I am trying to become a UX Designer when I graduate. The only work opportunity that my university offers is through a design consultancy club. I applied for it last semester, and got rejected. When I followed-up with my interviewers, I was told that my application was really good, but I wasn’t accepted simply because there were too many applicants. I worked really hard on my application, but was ultimately rejected due to the circumstances. But I told myself that I simply wasn’t good enough. I told myself that I didn’t have the skills that they wanted, and for several weeks I believed that I would never be hired because I just wasn’t good enough. I berated myself internally, punishing myself with words I would never whisper to a child. It was detrimental to my confidence level, and it did nothing to help me work towards my goal.

Nevertheless, this semester I applied and I got in. You would think that I would be elated after having gotten rejected the prior semester, and I was – for a few hours. Then the voices in my head awakened: “If you gave your all to get accepted into a club, how much harder can you work to measure up to their level?” “You’re going to have to work with other people, but are you sure you can do it? Are you?” “You still don’t have an internship.” They were vicious, they were brutal, and they were loud.

Several weeks have passed since I got into the club and the project that I’m working on (with a team and client) is ongoing. The problems that I feared weren’t as bad as I thought, and I have been able to cope just fine. The problem was never about them, it was always about me and how I spoke to myself. The self-degrading voices in my head made me recoil into the self that I feared the most – a self-sabotaging act of tragedy.

I have been talking a lot about not feeling good enough in the academic and career settings, but these feelings also surface a lot in my daily lives as well. 

As a college student, I am obviously surrounded by a lot of people my age. Parties and social gatherings where drinking is the social norm are a source of my insecurity as well. I can deal just fine with small gatherings where I get along with everyone, but at events with more people and alcohol included, I just cringe at myself. I understand that I don’t have to drink if I don’t want to, and that it’s fine if I don’t. The thing that bothers me is seeing others loosen up from alcohol and be able to dance and talk freely to others. I am a pretty tense person already; loosening up, dancing and talking to others rarely happens to me. In those moments where I’m surrounded by all these people, I wish I could just loosen up like everyone else. But I can’t, and more often than not, I slip away from the party.

Please keep in mind that all the situations I elaborated above do not encompass my entire life. For the most part, I enjoy my life thoroughly, even if by myself. The situations above create insecurities and fear within me that I am still trying to understand and deal with. Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to say something or act a certain way to make me feel self-conscious. I am trying to understand this deeply ingrained insecurity of mine, and I think constant exposure to these insecurities (i.e. challenges) is something that I will continue doing to help me achieve that. I’m a work in progress, and I’m okay with it.


my insecurities

I think we all have insecurities about our appearances. I definitely do, and have had ever since I spotted the first pimple on my forehead. My acne, my nose, my underarm hair, thighs, arms, big toes, stretch marks, and the way my weight gain has made a lot of these more protruding. It speaks a lot about my own self-esteem and the fact that, at the crisp age of 22, I am as insecure as ever.

Then there are the other insecurities, the kind that stem from our experiences and our character, things that are deeply ingrained within our psyche. I have them too, and they don’t seem to get any better with age.

being rejected from college the first time

Back in 2016, found myself in a gap year after none of the 13+ colleges i applied to accepted me. None. There is no “community college” where I come from, so my options were limited. I decided that a gap year was the most viable choice given my options, and I reapplied to another 13+ universities the following year,  and have been in college for more than 2.5 years now. 

But to this day, I’m still haunted by those rejections. They are hard to accept, no matter where they come from. I’ve since received a lot more of them, in the form of club, job, among other rejections. Receiving rejections awakened a lot of insecurities and resentment in me. Sometimes, I felt like I had been cheated, that I had deserved that position. Sometimes, I felt like I had failed myself when I was younger, that I should have pursued another path to prepare me for this moment. But all these negative feelings were counterproductive; they just bathed me in a pity pool for myself. It was unproductive and hurtful, and I am still working to make peace with that.

my voice

I think we all think our voices sound really different or weird when we listen to it on a recording. I have a particular distaste for mine. Whenever I hear my voice coming out of somewhere other than myself, I cringe. Hard. I know that if I hear my voice often enough, I’ll eventually get used to it. But it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not counting on it.

To make things worse, I can’t sing. Because I studied music back in school, I needed to sing for my music theory classes, and it was hard. It was hard to listen to my voice, hard knowing that the teacher was listening to me intently, hard knowing that my peers were also doing so as well. Those music classes may have helped me sing notes in tune, but they didn’t help me sing in tune to songs overall because I just never practiced. I never wanted to hear my voice out loud. I am trying to coax myself into singing again, just because it can be good for my soul, but it’s been hard to make it stick. I like humming, though.

feeling like i’ll never be ___ enough

Everything I set myself to do, whether it be my career aspirations, side hustles, hobbies, or simply something I want to learn, more often than not I’m plagued by a fear of not being able to do it. This is particularly so when I’m just finding my bearings and everything about that thing seems so amazing and complex that I find it incredibly hard to truly feel that I, too, can do it.

being seen alone (and introversion)

Ah, the paradox of being an introvert with a fear of being spotted in their zone. I love venturing alone, eating alone, being alone – yet I’m horrified by the idea of being seen alone by someone I know. It makes no sense, because I never judge people who are doing their own thing, alone. That thought rarely, if ever, crosses my mind, yet I just can’t shake it off about myself.

I have a feeling that this insecurity is deep-rooted in my experiences when I was younger. Growing up, I was encouraged, pushed and convinced that I had to be more outspoken with my ideas and behavior. My dad taught me that I had to speak up in every opportunity that I could, because if I didn’t, then how would I be able to succeed when I got to college or the workforce? If I didn’t practice then, I would never be able to speak up for myself. My parents taught me that parties and hanging out with friends were just wasting time that I could be using to prep for the SAT (or SAT Subject Tests or ACT or TOEFL or homework), yet when I found myself in fun and sociable situations I didn’t enjoy them. I had voices pull me from the extremes of a confusing mixture, even though I never asked for any of it.

While I went through a lot of effort and anxious moments to practice being more social and confident when I was younger, not much about me has changed. I am introverted as hell, I’m not a huge fan of public speaking but have become okay with it as my confidence has naturally evolved on its own, and I have come to the realization that I don’t like parties. Or hanging out with more than a few people at once. And I’m okay with it – but I still fear being judged when I’m in public.

my social anxiety

There’s this phenomenon called “imaginary audience,” wherein we believe that we are the center of a narrative and everyone is paying close attention to us. We feel like we’re being watched all the time, our every move being monitored. It’s most commonly associated with teens, though it can happen at any age. I’m 22, and I’m still one of those people. Every time i step out into a public place, I fear being seen if I’m on my own.

I talked about being seen alone just now, but now I’m talking about the fear of not knowing what to do when I have to confront that situation. I fear running into people I know, or running into acquaintances and not knowing what to say. Do I want to acknowledge their presence, or just brush it off? Do they even remember me? Should I have a small conversation, or make up an excuse to walk away immediately? Do I even want to talk to them? Hell no. It’s all these “What if…?” scenarios that leave me ruminating endlessly.

Along with this, I also fear planned outings with friends. I’m lucky to have met people in college whom I love hanging out with and have no anxiety whatsoever when I make plans with them. But I also have friends, or groups of friends whom I do get anxious around if I don’t know them as well, and it can get pretty awful in my head in the hours leading up to the meet up. 

However, something that I am proud of is that I am becoming more okay with not having social plans every weekend. I love spending Friday nights at home and occasionally going out on weekend (or not at all). Whereas my younger self would have felt the need to go out in FOMO, my current self is content with my own company. That, I do have to give myself credit.

my shyness

So, not only am I a major introvert, I’m also shy. I was incredibly, astonishingly shy when I was younger. I always have, and always will be. Through my experiences growing up, I have learned to pretend to be otherwise when I’m interacting with others. I have grown comfortable to be my full, silly self when I’m with someone I get along with and trust, but I am still my same shy self on my outer core.

I can understand why my parents pushed me to be someone who I didn’t want to be. They wanted to prepare me for the real world, but what they didn’t realize was that this was something I had to face on my own terms. Shyness is fragile; you can push, but if you push too hard, all the effort might backfire. While some of the experiences I had did help me break out of my comfort zone, I also have memories of things people said that broke my confidence. They were situations that wouldn’t have happened had I not been put in that position; but I was, and I have to learn to be okay with that.

feeling insecure

And so it comes full circle. I am insecure… about being insecure, self-sabotaging my way to failure. I am so in my own head, so conscious of my fragile existence, that I fear how others might see my insecurities and think of me. It’s something that I hold myself responsible for, because I know that, at the end of the day, 99% of it is in my head. Everyone else who, by the rare chance, notices something that I don’t want them to, will completely forget about it by the next few minutes. If I just use myself as a test subject, I’ll realize that I couldn’t really care less about other people’s flaws and insecurities – and if I do care, it’s always to compare my own flaws to them, because I am so fixated on myself. I am still stuck in my own narrative, and I hope that acknowledging it can help me take the steps I need to take control of it.


i’m afraid of running into people i know

It can be so awkward.

I guess I’m talking more specifically about living somewhere where you will inevitably run into the same people at some point or another, i.e. college. The people you live with, take classes with, interact with – they all unwittingly integrate themselves into your life without either one of you consenting. And if you’re not friends, if you’re somewhere in between, it can be so awkward running into them somewhere else other than. Do they recognize you too? Should you talk to them?

It can be so awkward for me. Particularly so when I never knew that person well in the first place. Maybe I worked on a group project with them for a class, and then saw them in another one of my classes the following semester. Maybe we tried out for the same club, only to find out I got rejected and she got in; we also take the same class. Maybe it was someone I knew long ago but wasn’t really friends with, and now we kind of see each other regularly in class. I hate it when these occurrences are in a repetitive setting; you can’t run away, you can’t leave, you can only talk or not talk to them. Most of the time, I choose the latter. It’s easier. It’s most likely they don’t remember you, feel indifferent towards you, or maybe they feel the same way and just want to avoid that awkwardness.

Admittedly, this doesn’t happen with everyone. There are people, most people, with whom you just don’t feel that awkwardness around them. Who make it easy for you by deciding to just talk to you after not seeing you for a year. Who wave a simple hi, and avoid the small talk altogetther. Why can’t I be one of those people? Why do I pay so much attention to those that I’m not even friends with?

I  can’t tell if this is me being socially anxious, or simply being anxious. It’s just something that happens, and it’s kind of the reason what makes me want to move to a new city every once in a while. To restart, to forget about all those awkward interactions that could have happened. To not think about how awkward I am. Until I meet people again, and those faces appear again.

Everything is made easier when I’m with someone, though. I can be with someone and be fearless as ever, going to places I wouldn’t go by myself for the fear of being seen. Maybe I’m just afraid of being seen by myself. It’s not something I’m ashamed of per se, and I never think that about someone else. But it’s just hard for me to be by myself, outside, and run into someone who is not by themselves. All these thoughts about them thinking I’m a loner start racing in my head, and it makes me want to run back home, lock my door, and veg out, trying to forget about what just happened.

I don’t know where this fear stems from, and I know I’m not alone in this. I always hear people saying how they don’t want to do this by themselves, go there by themselves. Some of them are extroverts who find comfort in company. Others just don’t like to be alone. Many reasons. But it’s hard to tell whether that fear stems from insecurities that they can’t really put into words. I’m not afraid of being by myself, I like being by myself; I just don’t want to run into people when I’m alone and ruminate about them thinking how alone I must be. Why I am so insecure about what others could potentially think of me, I’m not sure. 

I know it’s all in my head. I have to remind myself that others are just as self-centered and insecure in their own minds to even care about seeing me. It’s hard to remember, though, when you’re so stuck in your own mind. Regardless, I tend to imagine the interactions to be way more awkward in  than they actually are, which has made me be more willing to put myself out there more. But it’s not always easy. I’m constantly going back and forth, debating whether I should go out or not, do this or not, for whatever irrational fears are residing in my head at that moment. It can be hard dealing with myself sometimes.


i struggle to make friends

I don’t think most friendships are meant to last, I really don’t. For the longest time, I thought they could. Or at least, I hoped they would. But they would all seamlessly leave my life just as soon as they had entered it. One stayed, even as she moved away freshman year of high school. We thought we’d see each other next year; no, maybe the following one. We continued talking often; but after several years of keeping in touch, she, too, faded from my life.

I don’t go looking for friends with the expectation that we will be friends forever and ever, because if I did, I don’t think I would have any friends left. I now see them as people who are meant to come in and out of your life at that specific point in time, and I don’t find the gradual distance that naturally separates most friendships as something to mourn over anymore.

Of course, as the unbearably sensitive soul that I can be, I still hesitate to let people into my life. There are the simple questions of Do I like them? Do they like me? Do I like spending time with them? How convenient is it for us to see each other? Do we “click”? that get answered as time goes by, and if they are welcomed by both parties, then the acquantainceship blossoms into a beautiful, complicated friendship. But then what happens?

There are so many layers and levels to a friendship, yet the one that we crave the most is also the one that can potentially hurt us most. When I considered someone my best friend in the past, their words and actions had more weight on me. Just like it’s easier to talk to them than other people, it’s also easier to get mad at them when they don’t seem to be reciprocating the same level of attention to you. It’s strangely comparable to that of a romantic relationship, minus the romance, obviously. 

As a junior in college, I’ve made several friends in the past 2 years of college, a few whom I consider close. I think this is the most natural progression in terms of friendships. As freshmen aka the “newbies,” we spent the most time trying to get to know people and broaden our horizons. But by the time junior or senior year comes around, a lot of us settle into the few solid friends that have accompanied our experience thus far. It’s the same for every aspect of our lives: everytime we move or start something new, we need to put in that extra effort at the beginning. We’re more willing to get out of our comfort zone, in the hopes of finding that sense of community. But as time passes and we get comfortable, we start being more selective about who we see and what we do. 

There are also those friendships that you know will end by the end of a period of time. It’s a strange feeling, befriending someone, both knowing that it will eventually come to an end. This past summer, I got unexpectedly close to a few people at the program that were all in. We only knew each other for 2 months, but we spent that time living, studying and exploring a foreign country together. It was an intense but incredibly fulfilling time, and the friendships were what made it hard to leave the place. But something that consoled me was that we left as friends, and though we rarely, if ever, talk nowadays, I find comfort in that if we get to see each other again in the future, we will resume our friendship just like before. Or maybe not. Maybe that summer spark will be gone if we get to meet again. This doubt is what holds me back the most, as it’s this melancholic desire to keep the memories as they were that often prevents me from reconnecting with old friends.

As you can see, through time I’ve learned that I’m not usually the type of person to make a lot of friends nor keep in touch with old ones. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you might meet someone with whom you have a connection that transcends any distance. But those are rare and hard to come by. So for the most part, I won’t let the fear of losing the friends that I have stop me from forming my own experiences. This is my choice, one that comes mainly from my inner drive, but also from the fear of being the one left behind. 

Essentially, I think we each have to find what friendships mean to us and the value we want them to have in our lives, just like being in a relationship. As someone who was born in one place, grew up in another, and is now studying college elsewhere, I don’t have a place where I call “home.” I have several homes, but none are truly home. I’m fortunate to have either family or friends in each of the homes that I have, but I will always be an outsider in those places, either because I haven’t lived there enough or because I’m simply not a local. This mentality is what drives me to want to live in different places, and maybe someday I’ll find a place where I would want to call home. Maybe someday, friends will be more than just a temporary part of my life.