There are times when I feel so thoroughly depleted that I cannot write a word, let alone string together a sentence. There are times when nothing I say or do comes out right, the way I intended it to be.
What if I told you this has been one of those times? What if I told you that I have been struggling with writing for the past 5 months, because of all the false starts and false premises of what I wanted to leave behind?
The past few months have been hard, personally and professionally. I have felt the insecurities of my youth catching up with me – sometimes subtly, but sometimes all at once – the inner critic clasping me in its cold clammy grip and taunting me with the thought that I am never good enough.
Growing up, my mum would introduce me to her acquaintances. Harmless as this may seem, I faced many a look of sympathy that accompanied every remark of “oh, that girl has a head on her shoulders; such a shame she isn’t pretty”. As a young child when being praised as “pretty” was equivalent to winning the social lotto, I felt this keenly, so much so that I never wanted to be introduced again as her daughter. My mum persevered with her introductions, once asking a colleague’s young son to pick the “pretty” one between the angelic girl next door and her tomboy daughter. No consolation prizes there as to how that vote went. Suffice to say it was one of the most cringe-worthy moments of my life.
High school opened up a whole different can of insecurities. Being pretty certainly helped those popularity contests, but popularity, it seems, was fought and won by the kind of charm and charisma that could out-rival even the best political arenas. I was glad that the hard truths I had learnt earlier in life had shielded me somewhat from the hard truths I was yet to learn in school.
Since then, the corporate jungle has possibly whipped my insecurities into a frenzy. Relentless comparisons to the alpha male ideal served as constant reminders that I’m never quite eloquent enough, smart enough, connected enough, or just… man enough. Just when I thought everything was within reach, catchphrases like “it’s not what you know, but who you know” further belittled my sense of contribution and worth.
All my life I have been told that I’m not good enough. And all my life I have carried those insecurities as the Hunchback of Notre Dame. But alas, the mind is an organ that needs nourishment just like any other. And whilst there is almost always a pharmacist formula for taking care of our eyes, skin or heart, taking care of our mind requires us to surround ourselves with the right people and experiences. Taking care of our mind requires us to expel from our lives the kind of people that rejoice in our inadequacies and failures.
As for me, I no longer harbour any quixotic notions of fighting off the pageant police, or the school-ground Miss Congenialities, or the workplace social butterflies.
I’m done with fighting.
I’m done with benchmarking myself against the yardsticks that don’t matter to anyone else except my insecure self.
Most of all, I’m done with seeking validation for every step I take; because no one else can tell you that you are good enough. Unless you are ready to hear it.