Growing up feeling inadequate makes you a miserable person

When you don’t have that confidence in what you do, or when you constantly compare yourself with others, you will always feel inadequate. Allow that feeling to go on long enough, you will start to resent your life. This is also how you will develop anxiety disorder and subsequently depression.

I’m speaking from my own personal experience. During my growing up years, adults ranging from my school teachers to my relatives always questioned my abilities to make it in life because of my failures in some things. When I make a mistakes, they would berate me and call me stupid. Or they would find ways and means to twist the situation to make you feel like you are the worse thing in the world.

I still remember the time when I found myself ranked fifth during my fifth year, also my final year, in secondary school amongst 80 students. My aunt was with me to pick up the result sheet and have a talk to my form teacher. On the way home, she commented that, “Looking at your current score of only two As and so many Bs and Cs, you ranking fifth means your cohort of 80 students aren’t the brightest. So your score isn’t that good.”

Being at a rebellious age, I did get quite pissed at her and countered, “At least I got fifth and didn’t fail any subjects.”

All she did was to give me a shrug and a contemptuous yeah.

And in an asian culture—specifically Chinese ones, parents beating their kids for mistakes they made are common. Poor score on your result card, you get spanking. Teachers call up your parents complaining about you making some silly mistake at school, you get spanking. You fail to come home on time or play too much, you get spanking. There could easily be countless reasons why an asian parent will spank his or her kid. I get my fair share.

So when such a thing enter your life from a young age and continue until you reach your teenage years, it’s very easy to internalize it. Before you know it, your self-esteem is gone and you grow up thinking it’s perfectly ok to keep criticizing yourself when you make a mistake. After all, people have been telling you in your face that you are stupid and that’s why you make mistakes. If you are smart, you won’t have this kind of score. If you are smart, you should have been this or that.

So that’s what I did as I got older. I treat myself so harshly that I did contemplate maybe I’m better off dead. So that means I never was once happy during my early teenage years because I constantly fail to meet expectations.

It was only during my three year stint at a polytechnic getting a Diploma in Information Technology that I found something I’m truly good at. I can code better than most people. I could grasp technical concept faster and even found myself teaching my friends. But there were times when I do feel like a failure if I didn’t get the result I wanted. Yet overall, I would say I felt slightly happier.

Then came the mandatory two year conscription service. After that, it was a three year stint at a local university where I studied Computer Science. Because I didn’t keep myself abreast of what’s happening in the technology world nor practice programming, I found myself feeling miserable during those three years. I feel inadequate again. And instead of finding ways to improve my results, I simply let it be and resented myself for not achieving at least a CGPA of at least 4 out of 5. I thought, yeah, I’m stupid and that’s why I only get that kind of grades.

After graduating, I found my first full time job and the same thing happened over and over again. Every mistakes I made I scold myself, blame myself and forget all about self-care or acknowledging that I am only human.

By my third year as a member of the working class, I completely lost my way, feeling anxious, and depressed. A big contributing factor was poor cultural fit at my new company. I didn’t know I was a highly-sensitive person and don’t do well under stress. My self-awareness was suddenly gone. It all became me trying to meet everybody’s expectation and I no longer know what I wanted to do with my life anymore.

It took me a while to realize I am suffering from depression and decided to take control over my life again. I went to see a psychologist, then a psychiatrist for deeper diagnostics, and took a one long month break. I used that time to rediscover myself and figure out what I want to do actually.

Now I’m happier than I ever was but I’m not saying I’m completely above that self-critical nature. I still blame myself rather harshly for poor viewership of my writings but I pick myself up faster and earlier rather than let myself stay on the ground for very long. Because I finally acknowledged that making mistakes, as long as those mistakes don’t kill or hurt anyone seriously enough, is only human. It’s part of the experience. One should learn from it and then do it better next time. I have also learnt to stop comparing to another person because everyone leads a different life, have different personality and want different thing.

I for one wants a unbusy life, surrounded by friends and my family, have meals with them, play video games, watch movies or shows, and publish at least one fiction novel during my life time. Everything else is really just superfluous. Once you establish what you want and proceed to do the things necessary to achieve your goals, you will stop feeling inadequate.

*** This post is also published here on Medium

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

Why self-awareness is the most important skill you need

Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire?

Who doesn’t want to be a famous CEO like Mark Zuckerberg or Tim Cook?

Who doesn’t want to be an entrepreneur because it’s the cool thing now?

However, most people won’t be and will never be. They will fail because they don’t have enough self-awareness. They pretend to be someone else and fake it until they make it. I know because I’ve done that before and gave myself depression when that thing I was doing didn’t pan out. I blame myself harshly for failing without understanding the real reason. I wasn’t self-aware enough until I am when I got out of depression and re-evaluate who I am.

When you are self-aware you will know your own strength and weaknesses. You will be able to take control of your life and start leveraging on your strength to get things done instead of pretending who you are not. You know your own emotional state and how you would react to certain kind of thing.

Once you have mastered that, you will be able to take back control of your life and start designing one that is best for you. No amount of external opinions or comments will be able to knock you off when you truly know who you are.

That’s how I am able to design a life that’s more suitable for me. My only competition is myself, nobody else.

I know I’m not an entrepreneur. I just don’t have that kind of drive and skills to be one. I’m also a highly-sensitive person who get frazzled easily when things get to much or too big. My nervous system can go into overdrive very easily. When that happens, I will crash and burn. Then I will stop showing up. Now, that’s obviously not how you can succeed as an entrepreneur.

My self-awareness also means I recognize my how far my risk aversion goes. It can be so crippling at times that it prevent you from doing things. And being an entrepreneur means you have to take risk, no matter how big or small.

The above reasons are why I know I’m better off being an employee of a company and draw a fixed monthly salary. That way I could build up a freedom fund while working in a standard 9 to 5 job. I use that money to also build up my skills by going for courses. This is how I minimize my risk when the time finally comes for me to step out of the corporate world to do my thing.

I know I have entrepreneurial tendencies. I for one hate working for someone except myself. I just don’t really like to be told what to do. I also like to go against certain rules and break them. Sometimes, I just think differently and don’t enjoy conforming. When you are in the corporate environment, you most likely have to conform.

Of course, one can suppress those tendencies. I tried that and it make me miserable as hell. I’m not a sheep and it goes against who I am. That’s why I stop doing that.

The other option is to hustle on the side and give you that sense of freedom and ownership. What one could do is to work as a freelancer or create stuff for people. When you do that, most of the time you only answer to yourself and you get the freedom you so desire.

I know I’m good with codes though not the best. I also didn’t want to frazzle out. That’s why I am also a freelance developer with only one main client. In case you are wondering, my day job also see me as a software developer. The difference is, being a freelance developer, I get to enjoy choosing the time when I work and how I work. I make use of this to hone my craft of talking to users and customers by myself. It’s all about building up the skills needed because I know I’m lacking that. And when I don’t work or don’t manage to get any work, I don’t get paid. That is on me.

I also enjoy writing more than my day job. It’s what I’m good at too. Not the best but good enough. That’s why I will go and learn how to write better by applying what I learnt from reading more and watching more. And I also promise myself I will write and publish something everyday. It could be a personal journal, an article like this one, a poem or a fiction. It’s also on me when I fail to do anything of the above.

But it doesn’t mean I shall punish myself too harshly. I got my own bad days too and I’m only human. I make mistakes.

So you see, self-awareness means you take ownership of things you did do and fail to do. You also take ownership of your life, know who you are, be proud of who you are. When you acknowledge all that, you will stop blaming other people and show compassion to yourself.

That’s why this skill is something you need to have. It ensures you become successful no matter what life throws at you.

Living life without social media

Social media is one of the greatest inventions of the modern society after computers. It helped change the modus operandi of companies in how they do business with each other and with end customer. It has also shrink the world into a smaller place where communities are formed and people get together.

However, it’s not without its cons.

Articles like this, this, and this showed that social media led to decrease productivity in workplaces, increase anxiety and stress, increase depression rates, and decrease attention span. It has also led to situation where people in the same room don’t talk to each other anymore. They prefer to be looking at their screens scrolling through the feeds. They will see what their friends are doing, look at cat pictures (I do that because who doesn’t like cats…), and post curated content like images of themselves and their lives.

And you know what? Those articles aren’t wrong at all.

Auditing the time spent on social media

I decided to audit my life two days ago.

I realized I could spend up to four hours a day scrolling through Facebook news feed instead of doing anything productive. I would do it when I’m at work. I would do it while I’m on the train. I would do it while I am waiting for food to arrive. And I would even do it while my friends are around me chatting away.

I was addicted and afraid of talking to people.

And, it also took away precious time that I could use to read and write.

Excising the tumor called Facebook

I made the decision to quit social media. Unsurprisingly, the first to go was Facebook. I logged out from and uninstalled the main and messenger app from my phone and iPad.

Now, I didn’t exactly delete my account because someone once advised that keeping it around is necessary to ensure no one else attempts to masquerade as you. So what I did was to delete every single post I have ever made over the last two years and 95% of the photos on it. I removed my profile picture and cover picture. I put in a fake birthday and clear all the profile fields. There are still more posts to be deleted but it didn’t matter. The damage is done. My Facebook profile is ruined. When something is ruined, chances are you won’t go back and use it again. It would take too much effort to rebuild. Then I hit the logged out button and that was it.

What’s it like?

Although it’s only been three days, the effects were obvious. It’s especially so for me as a writer.

At first, you would feel weird like your limbs have been chopped off. There would be this void or itch that you can’t seem to scratch. When you are outside and feel like checking Facebook, you will find yourself feeling sad because the app is no longer on your phone. To make matter worse, you can’t even remember the password because it’s too long and managed by a password manager.

Then come the second day, you don’t even feel it. Well, at least in my case. I no longer have the desire to check Facebook anymore. You would find yourself feeling lighter and happier. When you are at work, you no longer stop what you were doing just to check the news feed. You can focus on your work more. And when you are traveling, you don’t check your phone as often. In my case, I brought a book along to read. You start to notice the nuances in your surroundings.

By the third day, you would actually use the freed up time to write. Again, I’m assuming you are a writer. The same could said if you like to bake or cook or play musical instruments. Now, even though you are on your computer with the password manager, you don’t even bother to open the password manager, access Facebook, and log in. The effort is just too much. You no longer feel depressed because you are not looking at other people’s well-curated life, all the nice photos of their families and friends, all the status updates of what they are doing, etc. You become more focus in what you want to do.

Don’t listen to those who claim social media is useful

Instead, I would counter that quitting social media is more useful. It will greatly improve your life, improve your productivity, your attention span, and the ability to think deeper.

And that’s how I am able to churn out this article in thirty minutes…

As Dr. Cal Newport put it during his ted talk, social media will actively prevent you from doing deep work. The ability to do deep work is ever so important in this and future economy. When you can do deep work, you are able to learn more in less time.

In that talk, you would hear him counter-argue three points people make when it comes to quitting social media. One of those point being “missing out” and the other was “my job requires it”.

Here are some other articles written by people who quit social media for a fix period of time and permanently.

Emma Fierberg wrote about how she quit social media for a month and how it was the best choice she have ever made.

John Gorman, who’s a writer, also wrote about why he quit social media and what were the benefits.

Call to action

I hope you take the chance to audit your life and determine if you should also quit social media so that you can build a better life for yourself and improve relationships that you have.

Discovering you are a highly-sensitive person and living with it

When I was growing up, I think I was like most kids. I was playful, hate studying, and make my parents mad. As I got older, I became more reserved, afraid of getting into trouble, and especially dislike rowdiness, but I didn’t think anything was wrong.

Then I reached my late teens and young adulthood. This is the time in your life when you start to take on more responsibilities and have more obligations. With that, it’s also when I realized that I don’t tolerate stress very well and have the tendency to snap at people once I’m over the edge.

When I reached my late-twenties, I started my first full-time job after graduating. Back then, I somewhat knew I don’t tolerate stress very well. So I told my supervisor and boss. He told me stress tolerance can be built up. One of the way was through exercise. I did that. There were periods of my life when I was going for runs and weight-lifting almost every other day until I actually hurt my joints.

However, I didn’t notice any major changes to how I react to stressors. I could barely function when the stress level is too high. I still snap at people when I get stressed up but not over the edge yet. Tiredness affects me pretty badly too. In those cases, I would throw tantrums when things don’t go my way. It became clear to me that hunger also affected me badly. I will feel very restless, irritable and get very impatient. Whining was one of my outlets. It was during this time, my friends told me to manage my emotion as I’m not a kid anymore.

I started to think something is seriously wrong with me but I didn’t do anything about it. I went on with my life as it is.

Life turned for the worse

My life turned for the worse when my boss at my new job kept commenting and scolding me about my inefficiency, my lack of stress tolerance, and generally messiness of how I do things.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to slip into depression. I lost interest in almost everything else in my life and stopped sleeping properly. I gained weight. At the same time, I was blaming myself for being such a weakling. I even told myself that I was a worthless fuck.

It went on for a month when something in me clicked and I knew something had to be done. So I seek help from professionals. It was obvious that the company culture isn’t suitable for me and I didn’t want to be fired because of another screw up. I quit my job as I prefer to end things on my own terms.

Discovering the term, Highly-Sensitive Person

I took a long month break from full-time work. During that time, I spent quite a fair amount of my waking hours googling until I came across the term, Highly-Sensitive Person. I read the description and did the self-test here.

Lightbulbs started going off in my head. I finally understood who I am.

Now, the moment you discover you are a highly-sensitive person, you actually feel liberated. It was like you achieved nirvana. All the things you have experienced can finally be attributed to something. In a way, you actually feel empowered and now you can start taking charge of your life.

Living as a highly-sensitive Person

From where I am, being highly-sensitive is like a bullshit excuse, especially if you are a guy. People would think you are not mature enough and suggest that you didn’t face enough adversity. Well, at least that’s how I perceived those judgmental looks and comments I get. Some may just call you effeminate because of how bitchy you can get when your emotions overwhelms you. To be clear, that’s my extrapolated thinking as no one ever called me that. At least not straight to my face.

From time to time, I have to consciously make sure I’m aware of how I’m feeling about my environment so that I don’t snap at people without warning. I also make people aware of my sensitivities as most highly-sensitive person don’t tolerate certain smells, changes to their routines, being swarmed with work, and hearing certain noises. But in some cases, your situation remains unchanged because people just aren’t convinced that being highly-sensitive is a thing. You will have to figure out another way out as there are always alternative solutions.

Despite the cons of being highly-sensitive, it has its upsides and it’s up to you to turn your sensitivities to your advantage. You can now start designing your life so you can do your work better, live a happier life, and stop blaming yourself. You need to treat yourself better because it’s not your fault.

Helpful guides and articles

To help my fellow highly-sensitive people, I found a couple of articles online written by people for those who are highly-sensitive.

Angel Chernoff published 10 Life-changing Tips for Highly-Sensitive People that helps you to change your mindset and your lifestyle.

An article by Melissa on Why Highly-Sensitive People Need Minimalism is helpful. I fully agree with that because I discovered minimalism separately during my month long break from work. I stopped feeling so overwhelmed by my environment once I started getting rid of stuff and be more focused with where I direct my energy.

Complain Less, Find Solutions

It’s very easy to complain. You saw something that you didn’t like, you just start grumbling how it sucks. You felt some pain here or there, you just start mouthing off how it hurts. You dislike how certain things are done, you just start whining about how it is wrong.

No matter how much you wished for complaining to get you anywhere, it just doesn’t. You are just wasting saliva, energy, and time complaining about things that doesn’t fit your world view. Not only that, you irritate the people around you. The more you complain, the more you sound like a child. I know because I have to deal with it everyday.

I know everyone got their life and stuff to take care of. Circumstances are all different, so context is important here. I got friends who have to take care of their ailing parents by themselves with meagre salaries and have to work from before the sun rises to sun sets. But rarely do I see them complain as much as some who have almost everything they ever wanted in their life.

Now, that last sentence is also directed at me. I complain a lot too. I complain about work because of how monotonous it is yet I’m earning higher than what some of my friends are earning and have more free time. I complain about life because I don’t have all the shiny things when I actually have everything I ever needed. I complain about how the government is doing everything wrong when what they did ensure stability of the country.

My only excuse was that I grew up in an environment where everyone is complaining and whining about this or that. It’s either about money, health, how mistreated you are, etc. Now? I call bullshit on it.

You see, as I go further along with my life and learnt a few more things, it became clear to me that complaining is a sign of you failing. You are a loser and have lost perspective. You aren’t looking at things from a higher level and see how you can put in the work to change the circumstances. There is just no way you can win in life if you are complaining about everything because complaining also affects how your brain works. It rewires your brain for negativity.

So stop complaining. You need to start looking for solutions to the problem unless being mediocre or a loser is your life goal. I will respect your life choices.

This “stop complaining” message is also for me. I need to be more proactive in looking for solutions to problems in my life. I don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be better than who I was previously. Good news is that I have actually beginning to change myself for the better over the last few months. My journalings have helped me greatly.

For example, I know I don’t know how to do technical writing. Instead of complaining I don’t know how, I went for a two days course and paid from my own pockets to solve this problem.

I also hate my full time job because it’s monotonous and doesn’t give me much mobility. I prefer writing and the idea of working multiple part-time jobs. But it’s obvious that I need freedom fund to be able to do what I want without stress. So I focus on building up my freedom fund, step-by-step if necessary, so that I can quit my full time job.

And in life, certain things have a very simple solution. For example, you are sick, instead of complaining, why not see the doctor. If an old injury isn’t healing, why not see the doctor too? Complaining doesn’t heal you.

Then when you run low on money, one of the solutions is to audit the hell out of your life and cut the unnecessary. Start looking at ways how you can improve your inbound cash. Complaining doesn’t grow money or help you save. Take on additional jobs if you have to. Cut your expenses if you have to. Just don’t complain.

I have also heard people complaining about not having enough time to do the things they want. My answer to you is, why don’t you go audit what are you doing everyday that is superfluous and waste of time. If you are spending hours on Facebook or instagram, and then you are complaining about not having enough time, there is something seriously wrong with your priorities in life. I will just say you are full of shit.

For those who have to deal with complainers in their life, help them see the light if you love them. And if they still refuse to change despite your best effort, it’s time you drop them off somewhere, wave goodbye, and forget they have ever existed. Get the memory eraser from Men in Black if you have to.