Today, I logged into LinkedIn and saw that a friend of mine had just finished her finance internship with an esteemed corporation. I, as a retail worker that sells soap and a freelance writer, felt the gravity of failure pushing down on my head.
“I just do not feel good enough” might as well be both mine and Gen-Z’s mantra. I have seen many of my highly intelligent, driven friends beat themselves up for being a "failure." They failed to land X summer internship or get an "A" in Y class and fall into a spiraling sense of doom that their career is now, essentially, "over."
With the rise of social media, particularly with career networking tools like LinkedIn, we have never been more connected to potentially life-changing opportunities, to scope out our professional “competition” and present the most pristine, accoladed versions of ourselves.
Despite knowing this, I have fallen into that “I am not good enough” trap, but interestingly enough, I have come to notice that this is just an ailment of humanity. I have seen adults well into their professional careers make posts about how they feel lost, how they have struggled to find purpose even later in life. Comforting, but inherently depressing.
What gives? There is not one clear reason for this phenomenon, but I personally believe that social media plays a major role. After all, we are constantly shown what we do not have, (and what we have not achieved) to the point where we start to believe that we simply are not enough. We land a new job, we start a new project, we get a new certification and then, shortly after, we ask "what is next?”
But what is that “next?” The next pay raise? The next company? Where does it start and where does it end? When will we step back from the painting, put down the brush and decide that our work is good enough?
Our "grind" driven work culture seems great until it leaves us in a place where we never feel satisfied, where we are constantly chasing some grand, intangible "success" while fighting against the immense gravitational pull of feeling like an utter failure in doing so.
This constant tug-and-pull is what drives us into those ugly existential crises that make people my age chop off their hair and get bangs, or the notorious "mid-life crisis" for proper adults.
They say that the thief of success and happiness is comparison, so the solution is simple, right? Just stop comparing yourself to others and you will be happy. Do what you want and you will be successful, right?
But it is just not that easy. When you are conditioned to see the world as “me against them” and “perfection over everything,” logical justification just falls flat. These reasons cannot explain the need to feel like the best.
And as our own biggest critics, as humans, it is unrealistic to expect that we can live our lives totally detached from our environment and peers. We can tell ourselves all we want that we do not care about what others are doing, but then we just would not be telling ourselves the truth, now would we?
But there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. After logging off of LinkedIn, I went through my Google Drive and stumbled across a piece I wrote eight months ago and I could not believe how much my writing had changed.
I noticed the grammatical errors, the spelling errors, the haphazard structure and thought to myself, "Damn, this is a mess."
At the time, I did not think much of what I had written. I simply felt that it had to be put into the universe for a "Dr. Whoever" who would be willing to scroll through it, for the universe to acknowledge at the bare minimum.
But today when I reread it, I felt myself feeling that weird fuzzy nostalgia that took me back to that day: life pre-quarantine, when everything was moving too fast, and I was miserable. I was not a journalism major, I was not writing in any capacity and I felt lost beyond words in both my social and career lives.
And now here I am, a declared journalism student with published works on multiple platforms feeling the most confident I have felt in a while, cringing at how poorly this piece was structured.
And that is when I had my epiphany. I realized that the cure to our chronic feeling of inadequacy is not to ignore the competition but to be in steep competition with oneself.
Progress only becomes progress when we look back to where we began, when we stop running forward against time and instead take a moment to fall back to look at the path we have trailblazed behind. Progress is not linear and neither is life. We ought to stop acting like it is ever was or ever will be.
Only time will tell where I will be or who I will be eight months from now, but I am confident that I will be lost, yet again. But unlike eight months ago, I embrace now that, in time, my "failure" of being lost will just another step in my pathway of progression in retrospect.
Rania Rizvi is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in supply chain management and journalism and media studies. Her column, "Reali-Tea with Rania," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 900 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day’s publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.