I’ve been there so often in my life that it’s almost become a horrible mantra in my head. That feeling of not being good enough for the people close to you. That feeling of being a failure to them. Of disappointing them with everything you are.
My mother, bless her, told me early on to study hard in every subject in school so that I may have all the doors open to me if I decided that my dream was to become a doctor or a lawyer (well, no, not the last one because my dad was a lawyer and he told my sisters and I often enough that we’d make terrible lawyers because we argue too much). So I did study hard, and I made top marks and honour rolls and I studied Chemistry, Physics and Advanced Math. Just in case.
There was a little disappointment in her eyes when I told her I would be studying graphic and web design in college. “Does that pay well?” she didn’t ask. “Will you find jobs?” she also didn’t say. But I knew, and it was disappointing to know that I didn’t fully have the support I needed. Even though she showed support outwardly. She said I was better than my peers, that I had a better style than my classmates, etc. But it wasn’t the same, and she did that for everything I ever did in my life. “Why did you stop dancing ballet? You were so good, your teacher thought so too. You should go back. You’re amazing.”
It was like all the paths that felt right to me, all the individuality that made me, me, were not good enough. For my entire life I hadn’t taken risks to ruffle her feathers for fear of disappointing her, and when my late teens arrived, I was tired of struggling to free myself and it finally happened, and I disappointed her time and again.
I took the first few risks in my life and cut my ties with ballet because I was sick of my teacher, and judo because I was sick of how much time they required of me. At least I felt more like me. I had more time to write stories and make websites, because that was my passion.
But then I went to university to “have better odds at job searching and a higher salary” (which is total bullshit by the way, because I ended up with jobs I could have had straight out of high school). I hated it, yet stuck around with it for three years because to drop out would be tantamount to a horrible dishonour. My middle sister had done it and has been the black sheep in my parents’ minds since. I wanted to be the good follow-up.
My first job out of uni was, like I pointed out, something I could have had straight out of high school. The hours were ridiculous, the pay was atrocious, and the office life was drab and deadening. After the announcement that the company would be moving out of town and downsizing and there would be staff cuts and severance packages, I rejoiced: I’d already secretly begun the application process to teach English in Korea, and a week before the announcement, I was unexpectedly accepted.
Announcing this to my family was met with shock and denial. “Why are you quitting?” It’s too far and I don’t drive. “But why are you leaving your industry? Don’t you like it? I thought this was your passion!” My passion had waned after a year and a half of doing brain-dead work. I needed a change and my industry could wait. “But you’ll be starting from scratch when you come back!” etc.
In short, though, I needed to spruce up my life and reaffirm myself, my identity, and my life needed a pick-me-up. I was depressed, disenchanted, and disgusted with how dead inside I’d become. I needed to leave and figure things out.
Korea was a breath of fresh air in so many ways I can’t even begin to count. I became the me I’d repressed for so long, I made choices and had passions and a gusto for life that I hadn’t felt in so long. To this day, I can’t stop thinking of Korea as my saving grace and my haven, even though I’m not likely to return for just as many reasons. But suddenly, I WAS GOOD ENOUGH.
My mother, to this day, still doesn’t understand what level of personal success I achieved, why I needed the far-away me-time, and what milestones I surmounted to become an individual I was finally proud of.
When I returned I went back on the job hunt and found the exact same type of jobs I’d had before I left on job boards. Whenever I voiced discontent or ways I’d make things better at the office, I’d hear the same drivel from my mother: “This is your field, your passion. You should be happy. You should be happy you even have a job.” I’d see people I went to school with in interesting jobs with high-up positions while I rotted in entry-level jobs where I’d never see a promotion if I stayed.
I went back in the rabbit-hole of personal disappointment and depression.
But what do we do with this feeling? How do we change it?
Here’s one way: stop trying to please others. This is your life. If you’re unhappy, you are allowed to vent. We aren’t in the 1950’s where jobs are cookie-cutter and lives are planned from birth.
You have to recognize this voice that’s telling you that you’re not good enough, that you’re sabotaging your life by taking chances. It’s just making you feel awful and making you forget all of the accomplishments and the individuality you do have under your belt.
You’re amazing. Never let anybody tell you otherwise. You’re dedicated to bettering your life and your job and if no one can see that, then they’re crazy! Failures happen, but they build you and you shouldn’t be scared of taking risks and disappointing people, because they’re only going to make you stronger.
Just be you.