Feelings of low self-esteem are not at all surprising in today’s society, where comparative success appears all-important. In my case, my feelings of inadequacy certainly derived from school years, which were devoid of any achievement to write home about.
Fortunately, education has moved on a bit since then. It seems now to focus more on one’s strengths rather than accentuating weaknesses but, I suspect still renders the majority of young people ill equipped to face the challenges of ‘the real world.’
Part of the reason, I’ve deduced, is the limited criteria by which success and failure are assessed; This is all well and good if you’re at the top of the tree, but not much consolation for the rest who, like me, could be forgiven for thinking ourselves as just one of a number! Nothing special, no particular gifts, just your average person.
The solution, I realised – rather late in life admittedly – was to find out if there was anything else I could do that might alleviate the sense of underachievement, which had persisted throughout most of my career in business. The fact that I found it through writing is still a surprise, especially as I hadn’t displayed any degree of skill in the subject.
There was obviously a need for self-expression, which had lain dormant for many years. The fact that it first manifested itself in self-deprecating humour, I now understand was purely an unconscious attempt to get to know myself.
It also provided an important first step in learning how to accurately portray my fictional characters, since it couldn’t have been just a coincidence that they happened to share many of the same traits as me.
Writing is a hard, often frustrating discipline, but because it’s also totally absorbing, I was able to create something which belonged to me exclusively, thereby freeing me from the detrimental comparisons that had hastened a retreat from my previous existence.
The truth was that I had stumbled upon something of immense value. And that is no exaggeration.
And this was only the start!
It was clear that to avoid slipping back into those feelings of underachievement, this newfound skill needed to be nurtured – not an easy task, when it was accompanied with what I’ve had to accept was an unrealistic expectation of winning the Nobel prize for literature!
How to balance the two, required another mental adjustment. It wasn’t about the fame and the ‘success’. The penny finally dropped and I realised that the main benefit to be gained was from the writing process itself as opposed to the pursuit of recognition.
John Steinberg ©2021.