On Days When I Feel Inadequate
A letter to myself from 4 years ago
This newsletter features weekly musings about life, career, identity, and behaviour by a questioning African centennial. To get it in your inbox every week, subscribe here:
This week, I want to share with you a piece I wrote back in 2017 that I often go back to whenever I feel inadequate in comparison to the more accomplished people around me.
I’ve been feeling that way a lot this week, so I’ve gone back to read this piece way too many times. I thought it only made sense for me to share it with you in case you’re experiencing the same thing and need a pep talk as much as I did this week.
Disclaimer: My 19-year-old self wasn’t a good writer 🥲
On Days When I Feel Inadequate
published on October 24, 2017
Yesterday, I opened the LinkedIn app on my phone and was reading through my feed of posts and articles when a notification popped up that read: “[Person X] has just accepted your invitation to connect.” I had forgotten who that person was and when I had even sent the invitation.
As I gave in to my curiosity and clicked on the said person’s LinkedIn profile, the reasons why I sent the connection invitation came flooding back into my consciousness. Person X had started going to the university at the same time as me (although in a different country), had already worked with top global companies like Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, is scheduled to intern at McKinsey & Company next year, and even had a side gig with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
Words cannot explain how inadequate I felt after scrolling through that profile and peeking into the profiles of Person X’s equally accomplished friends. I learnt that the only feeling worse than that of failing is that of seeing your mates out-succeed you. Think about it. Remember when you failed that test, and everyone else seemed to fail as well? Did you feel as bad as when you had an okay score but your peers’ grades went off the charts?
We all have peers within our circles whose accomplishments crush our self-esteem to powder. People whose dreams we consider bigger or more ‘inspiring’ than ours. People whose rich backgrounds and exciting stories make our lives feel as bland as a grey cloud wandering lazily across white skies.
On such days when I look at such people within my circles and get drowned in my feeling of inadequacy, the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt whispers in my ear ten powerful words:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
The truth of the matter is that feeling inadequate from time to time is inevitable. However, it becomes a battle worth fighting if we let that feeling of inadequacy completely paralyse us and leave us feeling like hollow shells of inexistent potential.
Inadequacy is a by-product of needless comparison.
By comparing ourselves with others, we fail to recognise that each person is born with unique talents, unique skills, unique privileges, and (most importantly), a unique path. Acknowledging the uniqueness of my path allows me to extinguish the rising flames of bitterness that is nurtured by the dark feeling of inadequacy.
Like most dark things, inadequacy creates a cage to keep its captives in. When you let yourself feel inadequate as a result of the achievement of others, you’ll realise that it’ll get harder for you to even get satisfied by your own achievements. You will always want more. It’ll never be enough. In other words, you’ll never be happy.
On days when I feel inadequate, I remind myself of my privileges and how lucky I have been along the way to where I am at today. I remind myself that I too am making someone somewhere feel inadequate. I become aware that fighting the feeling of inadequacy is like chasing shadows. On days when I feel inadequate, I quench that fire by writing down things that I am grateful for.
On that day when I saw that LinkedIn profile, to quench the feeling of inadequacy, I wrote:
“Today, I am grateful for the path I am on. I acknowledge that some people have less than I do, but are happy nonetheless. I am happy with the path I am taking and the vision that I am a part of. I am lucky to be a part of the people who are working to transform the face of Africa. My path may or may never be glamorous, but it will always be worthwhile. Today, I am grateful to be Arinzé and no one else.”
Gratitude is my antidote to the poison of inadequacy.
What is yours?
Currently reading 📖
Land of Big Numbers – Te-Ping Chen
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Get It On - VSTRV
An article that got me thinking 📜
I just shared it (read it again if you’d like) 😊