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.
27 Comments Add yours
This was a very brave post to write, Jolene. Being told we’re not ‘good enough’ is not something any of us wants to hear. Not pleasant all when others implied you had brains but not pretty enough. Coming from a Chinese family, I emphatise: growing up my parents always wanted me to be a girl-girl wearing pink and wearing dresses. I was very much a tomboy and that worried them. Whenever someone called me ‘pretty’, I hated it and to me it was an insult. We’re all so much more than our looks and more than first impressions. In terms of doing things, we can all learn to do something we’re not good at. It takes time. Sometimes workplace social butterflies and show ponies will be caught up in their little bubble. They are them and you are you, and good to hear you recognise who you are 🙂
Hi Mabel, Thank you for taking the time to read and leave such a thoughtful message! This really lifted my spirits, and I’m glad you are so open in sharing with me. Let’s be “brave” together and take on the journey to self-discovery and self-love. 😊🙏
This is so inspiring post, Jolene…♥️
Thank you for sharing from your heart Jolene. It takes strength and courage to share like you have. I know this would resonate with many people. Personally I think each generation is experiencing a greater insecurity. I grew up with black and white television and 2 channels, so there was not the media pressure. Nowadays that pressure comes from everywhere. Social media has made it even harder.
You are good enough, no matter what you may see or hear you are very unique and incredibly special!
Hi Carl! It’s good to hear from you and hope you have been well.
At the time I wrote it, I thought whether it would resonate with um.. men.. or whether I was just being a precious princess. I’m glad you shared your views. And you are right too, media / social pressure certainly has a lot to do with it. Benchmarking can be a dangerous exercise.
Thank you for your very encouraging message – it made my day. 😊💖
You are most welcome Jolene. Have been doing quite well! 🙂
I missed your writings Jolene. I choose to live by the mantra “I am good enough”. We all have insecurities but … we need to validate our own selves. There’s always numerous things to be grateful for first being there’s only one “YOU”.
Thank you Glenda, that is indeed a good mantra to live by. You are absolutely right, our “uniqueness” is good enough. Hope you have an awesome week. I’ve missed your blogs too! 🙂
I’m glad to hear all your “I’m done”s. They remind me of the time I said “I’m done taking the longer road just so I could gaze at your balcony”, “I’m done standing in front of your house, hoping you will show up”, “I’m done waiting that you prove you aren’t an asshole” (it never happens), and finally “I’m done smoking”. It’s what you say when you mean it and do it. Good for you! ❤
Hi Manja! It is so lovely to hear from you!
Wow, your “I’m dones” are classic – I had a good laugh, especially the last one (or second last, rather). Thanks heaps for sharing your list with me ☺️
Great post 🙂 you are good enough! 👍
Thank you, much appreciate your encouragement! 😊
I’m glad to see that you have overcome the self-insecurity ( and the writing blockade 😉 ). We don’t have to seek validation from other people, especially from strangers. Even if you are a saint, there will be someone out there hate you. So why to bother 🙂 I’m not an egomaniac, but in some situation, I think we have to put ourselves first.
Hey Len, thanks for reaching out, it’s really good to hear from my blogger friends! 😁
I think you’ve nailed it, even if you do everything right, there will always be someone out there that will find a reason to hate you… You are right, sometimes we have to do what is right for ourselves.
I resonate with your thoughts, Jolene. This is a beautifully written post, which put me to deep thoughts. You’re a brilliant writer.
Hi Isabelle, great to hear from you! Hope all’s well in beautiful Norway! 😊 Thank you for your kind note of encouragement, I’m glad they resonated with you. We always think we are alone with such thoughts, but the community here makes me realise that we are never alone. Really appreciate it! 🙂
It’s always a pleasure to read your posts, Jolene! 😊
Spring has sprung here, and we had some really warm days. 🌸
Hope your week will be a good and gentle one. Catch up soon! 😊
“Spring has sprung” – I like that. I remember Norway was lovely in July.
Thanks Isabelle, you too – hope you enjoy the rest of the week!
Oh dear, so sorry you are going through this 😦 I know the feeling and I can understand you perfectly. “Society” and the work department can be such toxic environments and cutting “death branches” is necessary at a certain point for one’s well-being. But as you said, at the end of the day, no one else can tell you are good enough, unless you are ready to hear it.
I guess, we should all concentrate more on self-growth and enjoy the process of getting to know ourself and building our confidence. Easier said than done, I know.
I leave you here a quotation of Primo Levi, my favourite writer: “I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine”.
Sara! ☺️ I’ve been thinking about you as I passed your card on my bookshelf the other day – how’s life?? Are you back in your home town?
I like your description of death branches. They are all encompassing. And just when you thought you cut them down, more are bound to pop up around you. 😂
I can never tell you how much that quote just spoke to my heart. It would be a sad pretence of a life if we were to wear camouflage skins just to feel worthy… I haven’t heard of Primo Levi before – but I will be sure to check out their work.
Thank you for sharing with me Sara! 💖
Great post 😄
Thank you 😊
That’s the irony, these are lurking on the corner waiting to be labelled as such. Sometimes somehow insecurities saved me from troubles/embarassment, but these kept me awake at night…oh, those days 😂
You’re very much welcome, and thanks for nailing it with your post, you gave awareness for vague feelings we keep inside 😉
It is never easy to face our insecurities and recognise them as what they are.
encouraging, we never knew how much insecurities we have to bear. Ironically, you got strength to carry these thru the years.
I hope this will add confidence to beautiful souls out there so they can defy superficial expectations of people around them (that if looking into details, these people are the one who need help because they commit shameful acts with no remorse – they are not even aware..).
Thanks Albert for your kind comments. 🙂 Funnily enough, I never knew the extent of insecurities I’ve been carrying myself until I have listed them. It’s readers like you that give me the strength to find an outlet in writing, so thank you! ☺️