Most of my life I’ve had a hard time feeling worthy of any praise or positions I’ve gotten. I think a lot of that intersects with imposter syndrome too: I could do the thing, but then people will find out I’m a fake and I’m not worthy of their praise or accolades. Also, there is a part of me that can get jealous of others when they get accolades for something I feel I’ve worked just as hard to do. This was especially true of my undergraduate college days. I did a lot of hard work, and learned a lot in my classes, but I didn’t test well. Looking back now, I wish I had realized that I was better in the humanities than the sciences (because I did get accolades for my writing), but I was determined to be a biochemist. I wasn’t a bad biochemist, but even when I was working in the industry, most of the work I ended up doing after a few years was some sort of writing or editing (in addition to lab testing). I wrote SOPs, inspected labels, edited SOPs and other documents, wrote or edited validations, and other tasks like that. I also ended up doing some computer work because I seemed to be the computer geek of the group (I can pick up software programs fairly fast).
When I went to seminary, I was writing all the time. It took my first few papers to really get into the groove of writing academically again, but when I found that groove, I seemed to just write. Although, I do procrastinate horribly, especially if it was a paper topic I wasn’t really into. There were a few papers where I deserved the grade I got (boy were they stinkers), and at least one paper I wrote that I should have gotten a higher grade on, but the professor didn’t like me. (Since it wasn’t that bad of a grade, I didn’t bother fighting her on because at the time I just wanted to get done with her class. There’s a lot of other reasons for that.)
I suppose that where this is going is that I would see other people getting awards for their work and wonder why I wasn’t getting the awards, too. What made my work less worthy of public recognition than others? Granted, there was the practical side of it: the awards had rules: you had to have a certain grade point average or test score, or a professor had to nominate your work, or you had to somehow know about it and apply for said award. Another side, to quote my wife, is that people sometimes get awards for doing something unexpected of them, where for you it’s something expected.
I think, though, it took going into corporate America to really start thinking that my self-worth can’t be based on the job I do. That is a problem with being raised on the east coast, because on the east coast, your job is as much of an identity as your sexuality, gender, or any other form of identity. I tell people a lot that the biggest difference between working on the east coast versus the west coast, is that on the east coast, the first or second question that people will ask about you (after introductions) will be about what your job is and who you work for. On the west coast, people are more likely to ask about you first before getting around to your job: do you live around here? What brought you to California? What do you think of the Giants? (Or alternately, they’ll talk about their own history and you end up chiming in about yours during the conversation.)
But I’m finding that my self-worth is starting to be more reliant on the work I do with others and my relationships with myself and others. It’s not easy, because it’s hard getting rid of the “I’m not worthy of X” tapes that stick in one’s head. Or the little kid in yourself that says “Pick me! Pick me!” when it comes to awards and things. It’s a process, and some days I know in my heart that reward can be a simple as being able to do the same work, same ritual, more than once. Or to be able to do it at all.
Or, I’m just mellowing about that stuff as I get older? Possibly….