A few things have left me feeling incompetent this week. In terms of intelligence, capability, experience or knowledge – feeling like you’re not good enough is not a comfortable state to be in.
I’ve always thought that naivety and curiosity could outweigh any intellectual shortcomings, however as I face the run-up to another birthday the comfort of this is starting to wear thin.
I’ve spent a few days this week working on an article pitch for a publication that I fear is out of my league, which is a great way to go if you want to doubt your abilities. While trying to think of an amazing article idea that would be impossible to turn down, a certain feeling came back to me from many years ago.
When I was in school and aged around 12-15 years old, Sundays were reserved for homework (and cleaning up guinea pig poo, which was the more enjoyable part of the day). I remember being stuck in the dining room with pens, pencils, highlighters and textbooks strewn across the vast table top. The volume of stationery, however, never did correlate to how easy the work was.
I’d sit there with my maths homework, which I’d always leave until last, and sit for hours staring longingly at a secondhand Steinbach piano and listing to the muffled sounds of Sunday dinner being lovingly prepared through the wall.
No matter how long I sat there, I could rarely understand what was being asked of me – triangles, circles, algebra, all that really useful stuff we use in day-to-day adult life – and I’d get so frustrated and angry at myself that I’d cry.
But it wasn’t just a few self-pitying tears to fill my eyes. I’d turn into a screaming, bright red, inconsolable monster who wanted to tear up everything in sight. I knew that nothing frustrated me more than feeling inferior, feeling like there was something I couldn’t understand.
This week has taken me straight back to that feeling, except this time my dad isn't here to run in and disarm the situation with a calculator. And even if he was, I don't have much use for a calculator except to throw at my laptop, because of course, it's my laptop's fault I'm stupid. I haven’t quite resorted to tears this time, but it’s the same feeling of frustration at my own limitations.
What I've felt could be compared to imposter syndrome, which is the feeling that you're a fraud and not good enough to be in the job you’re in. I'm afraid I'm not good enough in comparison to others my age, and my own idea of how I'd like to be and the job I'd like to have.
Today is the first day of My Birthday Month, however, so in an effort to rid these unhelpful feelings in the spirit of growing old gracefully, here is a list of things that make me feel better about myself, for you to refer to if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Things That Will Make You Feel Better About Yourself
- Watch Made in Chelsea. If you can bear to watch the likes of X Factor or I'm a Celebrity, even better - just something to make you feel worse about the rest of the human race and therefore better about yourself.
- If applicable, look back through work you did a few years ago, and hopefully you'll see that you can't possibly be as crap now as you were then.
- Spend five minutes reading the news to see what stupid things people have done today. Or better yet, skip straight to this.
- Sit in a public space outside a fast food restaurant, preferably facing its door, and eat a salad while maintaining eye contact with everyone who walks out of the door.
- If there's anyone you look up to, find out at what age they became successful in what they do. Every night I fall asleep repeating 'Haruki Murakami didn't start writing until he was 29 ' in my head.
- Read this year's Word of the Year runners up and see that, in comparison to most people, you're Einstein.