Updated: Jun 24
Sometimes, do you feel that you are less competent as compared to others? Think about it for a while and then read ahead.
My answer is yes, I have. Almost every day of my life.
I am a 20-year-old psychology student who has currently taken a year off to gain experience in the field of psychology to become more “competent”. The truth about the field of psychology is that our learning and training never ends. From the day you start studying psychology till the day you retire from the post of a psychologist, you can learn infinite new things. Every class, every course, every therapy session adds to our learning, experience and “competence”.
My reason for not continuing education right after my Bachelors’s Degree was because I had done enough of studying for 18 out of 20 years of my life; instead, I needed some experience on-the-field and required time to myself. I kept asking myself throughout my Bachelor’s, “Have I ever lived? Do I know what living means? Am I living or am I just running a race to reach the finish line? Am I even taking care of myself?” The answer I got by the end of my degree was a big NO. I was not living. I had given my entire life over to educational institutions that I was studying at. I allowed them to decide what I need to do and when I need to do it. I didn’t have a proper sleep cycle; I would sleep for 4-5 hours and go to college. Sometimes, I would stay awake the entire night to complete assignments or just wondering why I never felt competent enough, I didn’t set proper boundaries between college work, family life, my romantic relationship and friends.
They all got intertwined and the result was absolute confusion and the establishment of a fragile base for all my relationships. One by one, everything started collapsing. I had fights with my family, I broke up with my partner, I lost my best friend to a fight, and I couldn’t cope with some other friends who I ultimately lost, too.
You would think that I might have blamed myself for whatever was happening around me. But no. I blamed the people around me. I would always project my feelings onto them and would consider them at fault. As I started nearing graduation, particularly, during the untimely lockdown, I began realizing through introspection, some online courses, and conversations with my mother and my current partner, that I need to pause. I need to bring my whole, extremely rushed life, to a pause. I need to re-align my thoughts, feelings and behavior. I need to focus on myself.
Throughout April and May 2020, I shifted all my energy and focus on myself. I started engaging in self-care, some sort of physical activity like learning a dance routine or playing cricket, just engaging in some amount of strenuous movement for 30-45 minutes. I started focusing on my thoughts, even when they were extremely negative and toxic; I began addressing my concerns. Most importantly, I started expressing gratitude. I began maintaining a daily gratitude journal on a mobile app called Presently. This was the period where I began loving Positive Psychology. All this time I was focusing on my incompetence. I was focusing on the negative aspects of my “Self”. Positive Psychology, an ignored part of psychology and mental health, helped me realize that I need to focus on the positive, on that bright light at the end of a dark tunnel, on allowing myself to capitalize on my strengths and work on my weaknesses.
Soon in June, I started working with an organization. Thoughts about my incompetence hadn’t vanished away. They were present but to a MUCH lower degree. Whenever I would make any tiny mistake, I would beat myself up and tell myself that “I am good for nothing.” It felt like all my effort over the 2 months had gone into the drain.
Gradually, I picked myself up again. I began giving myself the space to think what I thought and feel what I felt. I began being vocal about things that were negatively affecting me or anything that was not aligning with my personal values. I am writing this today because I feel really incompetent again. I feel that others in the organization work better than me and I just exist. It feels like I am putting so much effort into doing my best but am not receiving any success.
While writing this itself, I have experienced relief. While writing the seven hundred and forty-four words of this blog till now, I went through all my past memories, my healing process, and my current situation. What I feel now is a lot more competent than I was feeling when I began writing this blog an hour back. What I feel is that if I keep doing this exercise of recording my thoughts and feelings, and looking at them from a different perspective, I will understand that I am not incompetent. Not just that, I can use this exercise for multiple other thoughts and feelings that I experience daily, whether positive or negative. I have done so many things in these 20 years of my life that attest to my competence, that attest to my success. Not being able to meet certain expectations is not my incompetence. Multiple other factors could have contributed to my inability to meet some expectations.
I believe that my life has a purpose. And that purpose is to help those who have been in my place at some point in time. Even if someone has not been in my exact same place, guiding them through their own unique journeys is what I see myself doing in the future.
I have worked out my boundaries. I have also managed my time well to include everything from work to personal life into it. Currently, my goal is to be a human being among fellow human beings in my professional and personal life. And I am absolutely loving both these “spaces”.
I cannot express how grateful I am to both these spaces. But I hope when they read this, they understand it.
Healing is a process. Self-care is a process. Therapy is a process. I now know for a fact that I am good at what I do. I just need more time to align my thoughts and feelings. And I am ready to give myself that time. Are you?
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Written by - Virachi Chaudhary