Throughout my childhood and well into my adulthood, I had this feeling of being worth less than others. One striking example of its manifestation is that I would get anxious and intimidated if I had been asked a question by a stranger, to an extent that my voice would crack, I’d start sweating or to stutter or I wouldn’t even able to complete a sentence.
On the other hand, I had this deep urge to be brilliant in something. The theme changes over the course of time, but there is a drive in me to outperform, or just become acknowledged through my efforts. I even went to extremes at work, and I became this highly annoying person, who just can’t be patient enough to let time do its duty (as well as for others to do theirs). The level of emotional investment was unhealthy, with difficulties to manage feelings at work: achieving at work used to be the very purpose of my existence. Obstacles felt like a derailment, a potential of stripping me of love and acceptance.
Whenever recognition comes along, there is a still some struggle (although it’s smaller and smaller every time) to receive and accept it, let alone to celebrate it. The more the recognition fails to fill the void, the greater the urge grows.
You are right to diagnose all this as inferiority complex and social anxiety.
For all of you out there with similar features, I can tell you, there are ways to overcome this, and there is no shame in asking for help.
Nowadays, I have milder symptoms of anxiety and panic, when speaking to a person I find attractive, say, a handsome barista. Interestingly enough, this doesn’t happen anymore when I meet someone for a date. Neither does it happen when speaking to a superior stakeholder of mine. It does still reappear (the voice cracking, the sweating and the anxiety) when presenting to an audience of a dozen people and above.
And my next challenge is to battle the symptoms of overcompensation.
I found that there is a state in which I feel most empowered and calm but excited. I learnt to understand that along the dimensions of challenge and skill, there’s this thing called ‘the flow‘. So when I drop out of the flow, it is because I overestimate the challenge of the task and I underestimate myself, I don’t trust myself and my skills to be able to tackle it.
I am better at letting others and time work their part at my job, and I resist the need to solve everything. I focus on doing my part, and influencing without interfering. When I succeed in this, it decreases my stress level significantly. Even now I find distancing my emotions very hard, after all, achieving is an existential question, yet, I try to shift my emotional focus and invest a part of it in personal projects, which is a great help.
I still can’t internalise the recognition I get, but I am better at receiving it.
My dad, while he was alive, used to tell me to be patient, and I think he meant that as a tool for me to tackle this. And it has started to make sense to me.
There is still a long way for me to go, but I am confident I will win this battle, and I trust my capability to adapt, whatever the challenge. All I need is time and patience.