My ridiculously high expectations

I missed all 3 of my posts last week (2xblog and 1xpoem), as I had a bit of a blip – you can read about it on this Twitter thread if you’re interested. Good ol’ mental health. It feels more relevant than ever to share such experiences – especially as it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2018.

Anyhow, onto today’s post…

I have ridiculously high expectations of myself. I didn’t actually realise that I did, as my thought patterns have become so ingrained over time that they don’t seem like mere thoughts anymore. It feels like I’ve absorbed them. That they are me.

 

pressure.jpg
credit: geralt

 

I don’t know exactly where this comes from. As a kid, I used to apply myself diligently to my school work, pushing myself to get the high grades and – better yet – the best in the class. I even remember this being the case at primary school, when even in Years 1 and 2 I remember aiming to “beat” the other cleverest kid in the other form (his names was Jason, and we actually have kept in contact; he did ‘Kumon maths’ from a young age, so that was always a particularly tricky subject in which to beat him!). I remember getting home from school, having some milk and biscuits (strong bones and teeth, mum would ensure we had it twice a day – with our cereal and then a glass after school), watching one of the kids’ programmes on BBC1 or ITV (we didn’t have so much choice then!) and then getting started on my homework around 5pm, or 5.30pm at the latest. Favourite before- and after-school programmes included Tom & Jerry Kids, The Smurfs, The Snorks, The Lampies and Jackie Chan Adventures. Oh, and Aquila, that was amazing. Anyway, it was then homework till 7pm or so, when it was time for dinner-time and Coronation Street. And then I’d chill for the rest of the evenings usually – or, sometimes, especially when secondary (high) school started, finishing off homework after dinner too.

Gosh I remember the homework. All the subjects. Taking so much pride in writing as neatly as I could in my fountain pen… sh*t got real annoying when I made a mistake at the second attempt with my fountain-pen eraser (remember those?!). I was a bit of a neat-freak when it came to homework.

It was all about those good grades. And the competition with classmates. And the kudos – both spoken and unspoken – from my parents and teachers. Mum was (is!) very on top of things after each day asking how our day had gone and if we’d got our homework or test scores back and how we had done and so forth (I should explain at this point that “we” refers to my brother and I).

With my upbringing (good schools) and capabilities, I was always expected to do well at school. And then go on to do something “impressive” at university, and as a career following that. Those were the expectations I felt and put on my own shoulders. In fairness to my parents, unlike other Asian parents, never was I told to do this or that. They just wanted me to be happy, and work hard and honestly (in my Sikh faith, making an honest living is an important theme).

I narrowed down the “impressive options” to medicine – after all, I found science interesting (I’m a curious guy, I find most things interesting!) and I wanted to help people. A match made in heaven. Plus I was an Indian, so wasn’t being a doctor like in the blood or something? Just kidding – but not really.

It seemed to make sense. Though I didn’t fully want to acknowledge it at the time, I had no frickin’ idea what I wanted to do. I mean how could I?! The big wide world out there was very different to the microcosm that was school. How can we expect to decide to do with the rest of our lives if we haven’t even experienced the day-to-day realities of said job? Ridiculous. A rant for another time…

I choose the subjects which were essential and/or “good” for applying to medicine, and I actually ended up bored and hating them. I was much happier with the GCSE’s, perhaps as they were easier, there were more subjects and so more variety for my curious mind, and I guess with less sh*t-my-life-is-starting-to-get-serious-now-and-I-need-to-make-a-decision pressure. I did minimal work over the course of the year and ended up with ABB as my final grades, after a less-than-impressive (by my standards) year 1 (AS-Level) results.

Looking back, Biology had actually been the only one of the three subjects that I took that I had actually enjoyed at GCSE – wow, this is actually a light-bulb moment for me. Writing this down, I realise I wasn’t really interested in those other subjects I took. Weird.

I ended up going to university twice to study other “impressive” subjects at “impressive” places… and dropped out of each after just a year.

You see, I was sent to good schools by parents. I was given an education that they didn’t have. They worked incredibly hard to make a better life for themselves and to give myself and my brother the best possible start in life. We both still live at home, and so really they continue to do that whilst we’re under their roof. I felt duty-bound to do something impressive with this education and life I had been dealt. One that would elevate my success even above that of my parents (after all, I was starting from a high point), and also make them happy and proud.

I’d feel like a failure if I’ve not ‘bettered’ what my parent shave achieved – financially – given the backgrounds that they came from. Even ‘matching’ it wouldn’t feel quite enough, given the circumstances. This is a mindset which is only just beginning to shift.

Ugh, it’s tough. And then I have this £100k salary mark in my mind. Like, where did this come from?! I somehow plucked this out of somewhere and it’s been a goal of mine ever since. Even when I sat down yesterday and realistically decided how much I want to earn in total in the next year, I had that £100k figure creeping there in the back of my mind. And yet, I’d rather even not be working for someone. At least not in the traditional go-into-the-office-and-work-9-to-5 sense.

So this is what I do. I chop and change all the time. I worry, and then I worry, and then I worry some more. All the time these expectations in the back of my mind.

I left a job where I was on the way towards earning that arbitrary amount (seriously, where did it appear from?). I tried doing ‘my own thing’ for a little while I was going to change education and be a rich entrepreneur. Then, I tried coaching. I thought I was going to be this famous coach working with top athletes to help them become superstars. Again, kudos and money springs to mind.

Now (time of writing), I’m looking at writing, with the hopes of becoming an author who makes a lot of money. F*ck, it’s exhausting. Not least because I’m constantly worrying and questioning myself and my abilities, whether I’m doing the right thing, whether I’m spending too much on blogging/marketing, whether I should publish traditionally or self-publish. Aaargh!

Like, WHAT THE F*CK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MY LIFE?! Again, more on my career struggles here.

What’s the journey here?? Where’s the roadmap??

Recent inner dialogue: do I write a short story first? Then edit it? Then what? Do I waste time + money getting a professional editor at this early stage (when the story is completed)? Do I just put it out there for free? Do I make it available on just Kindle/iBooks, or on other platforms too? Do I start charging eventually? When? Will anyone actually find + read the damn thing in the first place?

Why am I even writing this story? Is it for my own personal joy + creative self-expression, or for the money + fame + kudos from becoming an author? Again, it comes back down to those ridiculously high expectations which I put on my shoulders from the outset, when all this is just an idea in my head and I haven’t even put pen-to-paper yet!

This is what happens to me. And then when I’m connecting with others online, reading their bloggers, looking at their follower counts, seeing the stories they’ve already written… this is when I feel worse, inadequate even, and doubt I am capable and whether I’ll ever get there/ And perhaps at that point I’ll stop before I even get started, not wanting to try and fail. Not wanting the humiliation.

All of this I’m thinking when, at the time of writing, I am barely a week into writing my first story in 15 years (i.e. since creative writing at school in English).

Ridiculous. pressure. and. expectations. doh.

Another example: when I go to the gym, I sometimes pressure myself to have a ‘decent enough’ workout and push myself and be there for a length of time I deem acceptable – pressuring myself to have a ‘good’ workout, rather than praising myself for being at the gym in the first place and doing what I feel.

I worry that I’ll keep failing, and be a bum trying to make ends meet, and with barely enough money – and capability – to function as a self-sustaining adult, let alone with a family to look after further down the line. After all these hopes + the decent start I’d been given in life.. amounting to nothing in the end.

I feel overwhelmed by pressure, and doubt, and fear, and this scenario where I can no longer depend on others (parents, family) to look after me and help me out, that I’m sh*t at DIY, my culinary skills are basic, that when it comes to living on my own or even with a partner, I just won’t be able to cope. Terrifying.

The pressure I put on myself can be overwhelming sometimes. And it’s only when I face it head on and write it down like this, that I realise just how much of it exists, and how it permeates my life + psyche from all angles.

by Jas

✏ Written: Saturday, 10th March 2018 @ 3.24pm

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you find yourself putting a lot of pressure on yourself, or not? Is this conscious or subconscious (without you realising it)? Are you doing anything to change this? I’d love to hear about your experiences 💙

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Winging it.

imposter
credit: mohamed_hasan

If you’ve been following my blog, you might be aware that I’m not currently in employment, having taken a career break at the beginning of 2017. I’m certainly glad I did. But that means that I am currently unemployed. Gosh, that brings up all sorts of connotations, and feels difficult just writing that statement down. However, that’s the truth, whether I like it or not.

I haven’t worked for an employer for almost 3 years (you can read about my quitting my job here), and let’s just say the whole ‘work’ thing has been a pain point for a while. I never really knew what I wanted to do, and I’ve often feared that I would never find “it” – or, at least, something I’m content with (I believe that there’s not just one thing that we’re necessarily made to do, but rather a number of things we have the potential to thrive in #multipotentialite).

Back to the title of this post, in the last month I’ve been focusing on a new field – publishing – and have now started to apply for various jobs/placements/schemes (full disclosure: at time of writing, I was looking more at content-/journalist-type roles, before I started exploring the world of publishing). And, boy, do I feel like I’m winging it sometimes. I honestly feel that getting out of the house to go to the gym everyday is keeping me sane, or at least level. The sustained endorphin rush helps with both my mood and confidence, I feel.

Even though I’ve been blogging in various places for almost 3 years (scary), I took a year out last year where it was really for self-care, re-energising, and chilling the f*ck out. Mental health is key. I did, incidentally, continue to blog and build my writing portfolio – just doing what I enjoyed – and, as it turns out, that has turned out to be “useful” now for my CV/profile.

As I have done different things in my life – from when I was a tennis coach during school holidays when I was 16/17, through to tutoring, working in recruitment, doing a Masters, starting an education programme – I have felt like a fraud, an imposter. It feels like a constant sense of re-inventing myself, of wearing a new coat and trying to become this new thing, adopt this new identity. When people ask “what do you do?” after all, they’re really asking “Who are you?”. As well as wanting to know how much you’re making and whether they’re doing better than you, of course (just kidding, but not really – 10-year school re-unions, anyone?!).

In case you haven’t heard of it, imposter syndrome is a real thing, experience by everyone – in my experience, introverted, creative types are a sucker for it.

I’m having to brag about what I’ve done, come across a super-keen and self-assured (to be fair, I’m being pretty picky right now and – at time of publishing – after much info-gathering, and speaking to people, I’ve now honed in on where I want to be). Put my best foot forward, as they say. Whilst showing-off doesn’t come naturally, I’m also having to convey great enthusiasm and an element of “yeah – this is totally the thing I wanna do” (again – at time of publishing – I’m feeling much more comfortable with this). Really, I won’t know for sure until I’m doing said job and experiencing it for myself.

That said, it’s helpful to know the key ingredients, which for a long time for me are ideally in a small team where I can learn, with a company whose culture and values align. But beyond that (time of writing), it feels like I’m taking a few shots in the dark and seeing what lands (at time of publishing – I still am, to be fair – everyone in publishing says it’s a mix of perseverance and luck when it comes to landing your first job).

Also, as I’m applying for junior/entry-level/intern roles, I know I’ll have to get past the whole “Aren’t you too old/over-qualified for this”-type question. Which is fine, but I know I’ll have to feign confidence and coming across that that particular job/company is exactly what I wanna do and where I wanna work and all other jobs and companies are baaaaad. An exaggeration, but you get my point.

And then there’s actually getting the interview, getting past the interview, and then the next interview, and then accepting the offer, and then finally actually starting the job! Phew.

But then a whole new bunch of questions surface… am I capable? Will I like it? Will I suck at it? The questions I’d have anyway, but are amplified by the fact that I’ve had a break from work, and that this is a new industry, and new territory. Perhaps the biggest downside to not having a workspace to go to is that you’re left to your own thoughts, criticism and paranoia all of the time. It doesn’t surprise me that co-working spaces are cropping up everywhere at the moment, for those who don’t have ‘typical’ jobs – i.e. freelancers, creative, creative freelancers, freelancing creatives, etc.

That whole “fake it ‘till you make it” thing has never worked for me. If I’m not wearing the coat, haven’t got used to it, and it doesn’t feel like it fits, I struggle with putting on the facade.

Let’s just hope this one fits. Thankfully, it’s been feeling more snug of late.

✏ Written: Tuesday, 6th March 2018 @ 8.49pm

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you ever feel like you’re “faking it” or are “gonna be found out” in your work – or even when it comes to your life? As always I’d *love* to get hear your experiences with the whole imposter-syndrome-thing 💙

Why I don’t feel like an adult

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credit: Tama66

When I was at primary school, the boys who were a couple of years ahead of me seemed way bigger, taller and older. I thought, that’s what I’ll be like in a couple of years. I wasn’t.

I got to secondary school and thought, by the time I’ll done here I’ll feel like a proper, responsible, mature adult ready to go off to university. I didn’t.

Throughout these childhood and teen years, I thought, by the time I’m in my 20s, BOY will I be well on my way to being a fully-functioning adult. Settled in a job that I really like (just like dad), earning good money (just like dad), living in my own place with a lovely wife and thinking about having kids – maybe even having had one already. That’s hasn’t happened.

I haven’t done any of those things, and I’m 28, just about to come out of a career break (hopefully), and I’m sat in bed writing this. I worry that, in living at home, – though I know it’s not so uncommon these days (thank you, ridiculous property/rental prices and low salaries) – I’m getting too comfortable and not going through the adulting and independence that I otherwise would. I mean, it didn’t happen to me at university (that was a difficult time, another story there).

To this day, I can get very wrapped up in my thoughts and/or absorbed in what I am doing. Sometimes, I even forget to eat. If I spend too much time on my own, I can get low. My family also know this, and my already-anxious mother is constantly thinking about this in the back of her mind. My dad and my brother, too, though they don’t show it as obviously. I can cook basic meals, I’m lazy when it comes to household stuff. I suppose weekly vacuuming can be therapeutic, depending on my mood – though certainly not a task I look forward too (whacking music or a podcast on can help). Shamefully, it is only recently that I have been conscious of the money I am spending, rather than spending what I want and when I want.

Part of all of this is a comparison thing. My parents got married in their early-mid 20s, soon had a mortgage, and I think my dad was 27 (mum 24?) when I was born. My mum is a trojan and seems to be able to juggle a million things all at once. I’m not like that.

Most of the people of my kinda age seem to be living in a flat with other housemates or other-halves. Most, though not all – and it’s still more common for Asian (at least, Indian) families to live together for longer. I think the parent-child to adult-adult transition can be a lot trickier, especially when you have lived at home almost your whole life – and have a dominant mother!

A lot of this comes down to societal and cultural expectations, and the pressure we put on ourselves based on what we see in the world around us. Whether it’s ‘in real life’ or online. And, of course, the online world means we see all sorts of amazing, shiny lives aka apparently fully-grown adults who seem to have it all. The ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ effect is, in the digital age, more profound than ever.

I try not to dwell too much on this feeling of inadequacy and, instead, am trying to focus on myself and acknowledge even the smallest of steps. Slow growth in my own time. I think it’s been easy for me to be complacent whilst living at home and, if I want to be the man I want to be, there’s more development to come. I suppose that’ll always be the case, though.

“Run your own race” a friend once told me. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Run my own race.

PS. After a busy end-of-working-week, and a course all-day Saturday and Sunday, I missed Friday’s post last week. I still try to post on Tuesday and Friday each week, with a poem on Sunday.

✏ Written: Tuesday, 6th March 2018 @ 9.17am

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you feel like an adult? Are there parts of you which need to grow more to ‘become’ (more of) an adult? I’d love to hear how you feel 💙