Embracing mediocrity

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Uncertainty can paralyze you. Our Campus Columnist Keerthi knows this feeling but she also knows she’s not the only one.

Every piece of writing I put out into the world has to be my best work. Statistically, that’s impossible, of course - but it doesn’t stop me from feeling that way. Born out of a need to maintain often imagined expectations, the fear of writing - or drawing, or creating - work that is anything less than amazing is a paralyzing one. It’s a common sentiment on campus, though rarely disclosed in public; from all sides, there’s a pressure to be the best, and even if that pressure isn’t actually being applied (by parents, by teachers, by peers), it’s certainly being felt.

Take, for example, this column: my first work as DUB’s campus columnist of this year. Definitely something to be proud of, absolutely an achievement in its own right, but for the past three weeks, all my mind has been doing is spiralling at the thought of potentially submitting a sub-par article to the editing board. What if I mess up somehow? What if everyone realizes that my initial article was a stroke of luck, and that I’m actually not talented at all? Ah, the mandatory side effect of studenthood: imposter syndrome. Everyone around me is studious, and intellectual, and well-rounded, and I have just been lying my way through life this whole time. I’m an imposter, surrounded by ‘real’ overachievers, ‘real’ sources of talent, and any minute now, someone will discover my elaborate ruse and I’ll be rejected by everyone.

I’m writing about this now because everyone I’ve worked up the courage to talk to about this has reacted the same way: “Oh my god, same!”, “I feel like that every day,” and, of course, the quintessential “big mood.” If you’re reading this and you don’t identify with this feeling at all, I’m actually really happy - I promise you, you’re not missing out. It’s a feeling that picks at the very root of any self-esteem you might have, this tiny voice at the back of your mind that never really goes away. It’s immobilizing; it stops you from trying new things for fear that you’ll be bad at them, or even that you won’t immediately be good at them. It turns you into someone who is terrified of mediocrity, while at the same time convincing you that the best work you’ll ever do is still destined to be mediocre. Letting everyone down is an inevitability, right?

Wrong. Take it from a veteran ‘imposter’: you’re doing just fine. More importantly, just fine is more than enough. I’m still working on cutting myself some slack. It’s hard to do, especially in an environment where everyone around you seems to not feel any pressure at all and still deliver fantastic work every time. But I promise, you’re not the only one struggling. You are allowed to be a person. Let yourself be alright at things. Let yourself be bad at things, even! Don’t get caught up in impressing everyone around you, or trying to convince people that you belong. You deserve to be where you are, and you’ve gotten here on your own merit.

And of course, talk about it. If you’re scared you’re letting everyone around you down, open up to those people. You’d be surprised at how many of the expectations that you want to exceed are being constructed in your own head.

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