am i good enough?
I live in constant fear of not being enough.
Smart enough. Successful enough. Nice enough. Pretty enough. Good enough at karaoke. Every dumb thing you can think of.
This is what makes your 20s difficult. On the one hand, we see people who are able to create amazing things, smart people who build enormous value in the world. We see the Facebooks, the Googles, the 30-under-30 lists that set off a mental ticking clock in my head, reminding me to hurry. That my time might be running out.
“Tonight I am worrying that other people have greatness and there is a finite amount of greatness and it is slipping out of my hands. Also, it is embarrassing to admit to wanting greatness knowing there is a risk I might not achieve it.” - Penelope Trunk
This is an incredibly hard post to write. I’m anxious about being imperfect, which makes me anxious about being anxious. But my anxiety has stopped me from writing perfect and glossy posts about snowboarding and design strategy, technical diligence, serendipitous space. So I’m trying to be vulnerable. Imperfect.
Some days the anxiety eats you alive. Stops you from running in the rain at 6 AM. Stops you from returning a phone call. From going to wine bars with friends on Friday nights because you’re curled up in the fetal position listening to Jack’s Mannequin. Right now, my anxiety is like that.
I have an unbelievable amount of self-doubt at the moment. I live in constant fear that the scope of my ambitions so completely outweighs the scope of my abilities.
Last year I was named to the Council of Outstanding Young Engineering Alumni. Placed on organizational “High Potentials” lists. Invited to speak about success, leadership, and women in technology at half a dozen conferences. And last Tuesday my nomination to the Board of Trustees for the Georgia Tech Alumni Association was announced, making me (as my friends like to remind me) one of the youngest trustees, maybe ever.
We all have our own insecurities.
I’ve learned that the last thing I should do when I get anxious is shut down. And the first thing I usually do when I get anxious, is shut down.
So I push. I push in ways that aren’t easy, or comfortable. I push myself to publish posts, when the last thing I want to do is share any part of my soul. I push myself to learn to snowboard, when I could be perfectly comfortable, perfectly safe, perfectly good at skiing. Push myself to share my thoughts – all of them, the mundane, the hopeful, the anxious, the silly - with two friends on an obscure social network, at the risk that they’ll see all my insecurities and think less of me for it. And then I deactivate my Path account because there’s only so much pushing I can take.
Thanks for responding to this, Elli.
I push myself to remember that it’s ok to have insecurities. Even if other people think you shouldn’t.
Elli reminds me all the time that if we were perfect at what we are chasing, that we aren’t chasing the right things.
He came to see me last week. After taking Step II of the USMLE, three weeks before graduating from one of the best medical schools in the world, before moving to Philadelphia, after an 8 hour test. He sat on the couch in the living room at 1:20 in the morning and reminded me, in a still, small, voice, that I’m only 25. That the world still lies ahead. That I am enough.
“We are the daughters of feminists who said ‘you can be anything’ and we heard ‘you have to be everything.’ “ – Courtney Martin (stolen from Kontrary)
My ambitions have always been greater than I can justify. To write world-class content. To develop technology that saves millions of lives. To empower billions of people out of poverty, out of hopelessness, and into a situation that preserves their dignity, that removes shackles, that brings people along. I don’t know that I have the ability to do it. I don’t know that I’ll ever get there. But I’m trying.
A still, small voice.
You are enough.