“Never Enough” cocktail:
– One part vulnerability
– Two parts imposter syndrome
– Shake until queasy
– Serve chilled over social media
I recently decided to take a break from social media. Nothing too extreme; I was focused on a few projects and felt that turning off my phone, news feed, etc. would decrease the noise. Three days later, I’d created new content and outline several pages of notes.
Less than an hour back on social media and I was smacked in the face by this powerful sense of nothingness. Everywhere I looked, there were other people accomplishing far more and having deeper social impact than I can imagine. What the hell?
Sure, this is a bad reaction—not a good color on anyone. Making the world a slightly better place for other humans is not a competition. The stark contrast between what I felt had been accomplished, and every other success highlighted on the pages in front of me, was a bit more than I was ready to receive.
In every aspect of my life, it appeared that THE ENTIRE WORLD was outpacing me. If this was the best I could create after three days of focus, it’s probably better to simply quit. Walk away. Let the truly skilled and successful keep the spotlight.
Pity pool—party of one, your table is ready.
This feeling was different than imposter syndrome, and not quite the vulnerability hangover that Brene’ Brown so accurately defined. A deep sense of “wow, it’s really brave for you to even attempt this, what with your complete lack of talent. Here is your participation medal” combined with “people are probably just being polite when they compliment your work. I bet they put your proposal on the fridge next to their kid’s macaroni art so it could share the gold star sticker.” Ouch, my inner gremlin really has my number down.
Here’s the reality of social media—it’s a single, self-selected, perfect moment in time. A finger snap culmination of behind the scenes effort, struggles, tears, and self-doubt. People post their finish line pictures to celebrate.
They don’t typically share the ugly crying, chair kicking exasperation points along the way. Not so much posting selfies of one sitting on the floor drinking wine right out of the bottle, surrounded by unfinished work.
Partly because there isn’t an adequate filter to capture the depths of creative frustration. Mostly because breaking through these setbacks is a critical part of the journey. It’s painful and necessary.
Ever get the feeling that everyone else was handed a script for navigating life?
Most people do at some point. The truth is, everyone else is making it up as they go along. When you’re wide awake at 1am replaying that conversation—you know the one—remember that the key to improve is “yes, and …” So “yes, and …” your way out of that cyclical thinking, into a more friendly internal dialogue.
And the “never enough” cocktail? That’s a false narrative. It positions your ability to change the world as something with a finish line. Those other people on the field? They’re pulling the cause forward, not ahead of you.
It’s an illusion of perspective. From a different angle, you can see how each one is lifting another up. You are a key component in affecting change. Get back out there.
As for me, I’ve decided to invoke a talisman from my youth—the advice given to Danny by Mr. Hallorann in Stephen King’s The Shining:
It’s just like pictures in a book. It isn’t real.
Maybe not the best analogy, but I left my script at home.
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