I Am My Own Worst Enemy

By June 15, 2016 No Comments

A texting conversation between myself & a friend that I had 2 days ago, ironically enough. I wanted to expand on my response, not only for my friend, but for anyone reading:

A: Can I ask you like life advice again?

Me: Yes, of course.

A: Ok here goes. I always want to be the best I can be, but sometimes I just get burned out, I’m tired, or lazy. It’s really hard not to try and compare your life to someone else’s, especially when they started in the same place as you did. I know everyone has different paths, but how does someone live with the fact that someone else will always be wildly more successful than you are? I know a lot of it comes from just doing your thing the best you can; I’m just kind of scrambling to find my “thing.” I think about my failures & worry that I will never reach my potential. My self-esteem just is an issue. (I’m also kind of in this funk because I have an exam Monday I’m stressed about, but yeah.)

A: I guess I feel just kind of lost.

Me: First, it is human nature to compare yourself. We all fear we are not good enough. Not good enough to be loved. Not good enough to get an A on the next exam. Not good enough to try something new. Whatever it is, is not the point. The point is that this feeling is one that each and every person on this planet can relate to. You’re not lost, you just haven’t found yourself yet. Almost like pieces of a puzzle. Some have the corner edges. Some have that sole middle piece. Others have ones that seem to fit perfectly. But, their puzzle is not yours. Their final product is an ocean; yours is a forest landscape. Your pieces don’t fit their puzzle, yet you try so hard to make it. We all feel there is a certain mold we have to fit. Our mind does this to us. We get in our own heads. We question who we are on the acts of others. We get scared. Fearful. Anxious. Unsure. Insecure. So, we stop putting our own puzzle together. We look at the others’ creations. Compare every little aspect. Why don’t I have that? Why is everything fitting so perfectly for them? This monster eats away at us. Almost like a virus. Slowly infecting our cells & mind. What you need to recognize is the perspective of it all. This fear you are feeling can be a good thing. A motivator to be better. But you need to be better for YOU. Not anyone else. Trust your intuition, who you are, & ultimately who you want to become. You’ll find your puzzle pieces. Everyone’s picture is not perfect. It may be portrayed that way through the world we live in & outlets such as social media. Merely facades of our character. Seeming “perfect”. We all need improvement. You don’t need to justify that either. Start by looking at yourself in a mirror. Think about what you have done, endured, surpassed, how much you have changed. You have come such a long way. You have failed & maybe tried placing a puzzle piece in an incorrect spot. It is okay, I promise. We don’t give ourselves enough credit. Other peoples’ accomplishments are not your failures. Recognize & do this; slowly that virus will fade away.

Being the youngest of 3 instilled my insecurities at a young age. A brother who seemed to be the “golden child.” An equally successful sister. Those “Am I good enough?” thoughts seemed to race around my young mind almost immediately. It is not that my parents treated one differently or better. These negative ideas manifested subconsciously. I constantly felt compared, even if it wasn’t true. Academically. This pressure to achieve the grades they did or perform better. Physically. Struggled with the typical acne, braces, and overall unhappiness with my appearance. This is one that I still can honestly say I struggle with. Athletically. Basketball was our family sport. “You won’t make the shot, you need to pass.” I remember myself internally saying that. I was the only person in my way; I never could become the player I wanted even after 10 years of playing. Socially. My brother, sister, & cousins would always prank me. Tease me whenever we played games. At the time, it seemed funny. But, underneath the surface, I think these experiences only fed the growing self-esteem issues.

Fast forward to college. UF seemed to be that “dream school” for me. Thought I wasn’t good enough to get in. I was more worried where everyone else was going & wanting to be. My parents helped me decide on the safe choice, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, to study pharmacy. After 2 years there, I wasn’t happy with who I was, where I was, & the program I was in. Panic attacks started. But, that’s when I looked in the mirror, as I mentioned before. Staring at my sweaty, shaking self not recognizing the person reflecting back. Tears ran down my face faster than I could wipe them away. I was completely shattered. Broken. It seemed as if I had held back all these insecurities for such a long time that I couldn’t even express them healthily. I felt powerless. Talking with my academic advisor at the time changed everything. She instantly recommended UF’s highly-ranked pharmacy program, full of endless opportunities. I applied to UF for the Fall 2014 semester & was accepted. It seemed the comparisons to others were put on pause, if only for an instant.

With the belief that I could actually make a difference, I left family, friends, & a guaranteed pharmacy program. Oh, and a scholarship. I needed to take a summer class, the PCAT, & be accepted into UF’s pharmacy school after finishing my prerequisites. It didn’t matter. My mindset was driven by this underlying passion that was buried beneath the insecurities. The problem was everyone thought I would make friends so quickly & love everything about the university. That didn’t happen. The comparisons returned. The doubt. Did I make a mistake? Why can’t I seem to make a single friend? I had nothing. The depression set in. However, it was this flame inside of myself that kept me going. I wouldn’t let myself crack completely again.

When I returned home for winter break, I lied about it all. I couldn’t let my friends & family know things weren’t working out. This roller coaster of negative emotions seemed never ending. Until, Christmas Day. I received an email from the UF College of Pharmacy detailing my acceptance. In this moment, everything else seemed to lose meaning—The sleepless nights. The tears. Never feeling good enough compared to others. This, then, prompted a new Jack. I began applying for various organizations on campus & becoming involved during spring. Some that I now happily call my family. Some that have given me the confidence I needed all along. Ultimately, the rest is history.

This journey was not an easy one & I still have more to go. I just completed my first year of pharmacy school. It was one of the hardest academic years of my life; I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every time I begin to doubt myself, I think about how far I have come. My path. Anything, but traditional. I wake up every morning & look in the mirror. I don’t see that broken figure; I see someone working everyday towards bettering himself. With a definitive purpose & passion in life. Is my confidence & self-esteem at a 100{c89cd7f4fa26d16537b3fe779361f4468ca92e80ef52e309b9ca31cbc1af2626}? Not at all. But, it definitely improved. Am I comparing myself as much to others? I can’t. They haven’t experienced what I have. And I haven’t been on their life journey. That is the point to all of this. There is a reason the words self-esteem & self-confidence start with self-. It starts with you. You can do it. You need to highlight your strengths, what makes you, you, & believe you can accomplish anything. You are either your biggest support or your worst enemy. You are strong. You aren’t alone in this. You know how to prevent the latter.

So, my puzzle is coming together. And yours will too. I can’t wait to see what it looks like. Certain pieces I have learned to create on my own. Others have developed from the people I have met, loved ones, friends, mentors, & role models. Pieces added, removed, at times manipulated to fit. It has broken more than a few times & seemed impossible to continue. But now, 22 years later, the puzzle seems to be becoming the picture it is meant to look like: unlike anyone else’s.

-Jack G.