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.