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Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu: When You Think You’re Not Good Enough

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Most of my friends probably don’t remember that I am an artist by education. I spent four years in the university lugging a drawing board that was two times bigger than me (I’d have to look for photos of my epic, customised board…lol), sleepless nights in a textile studio inhaling ‘hydros’ (that, by the way, smelt like rotten eggs), and sketching boring landscapes under hot, broiling sun.

Today, I hardly sketch. Not commercially anyway. This is not because I can’t, but because back in school, I met so many fascinating, incredible artists that I managed to convince myself I will never be as good as them, and even when I received credit for something I did, there must have been a mistake somewhere. I struggled (and still struggle) to overcome this feeling on every creative project I embark on.

Some people call it the impostor syndrome.

My ‘never-good-enough’ syndrome did not just stop there. It spilled to my writing, my business, and many other things. Funny to realise that I am not alone. In fact, many creative people either go through such a phase in life or live their entire lives in fear and anxiety that they will never be half as good as they ought to be.

Fear. It stinks. It breaks. And the more you listen to that tiny voice telling you how horrible you are at what you do, the more you are likely to believe it and think you are never going to be good enough.

Reverse the Negative Voice
So, let’s spin this around. I just said ‘the more you listen to that tiny voice telling you how horrible you are, the more you are likely to believe it’; same is true for the reverse. The more you listen to your inner voice telling you how awesome you are, the more you are likely to believe it.

It’s actually about what voice you choose to drown the other.

Teach your Mind to Believe What it should
Try this: bring out every work or project you’ve ever done and study it. Truth is, you will realise it was not as bad as you thought, but the mind has a way of blowing things way out of proportion. That’s why you watch horror movies sitting on the edge of our seats in fear, even when at the back of your mind, you know you are watching actors with red goo running down their faces.

It’s all in the mind.

Reduce your expectations
I realise that most times when I fall into the trap of the not-good-enough syndrome, I probably have set too high expectations others cannot achieve, even if they spent their entire lifetime trying. In those circumstances, I tell myself to take a chill pill; where am I running to?

Try very hard (no matter how difficult it is) not to benchmark yourself against other people’s successes; two of you are not the same, and you probably have very different experiences and moments.

What I do? I learn to take it easy on myself. This life is not that deep. After all, I am still work-in-progress.

You should do the same.

Fake it till you make it
When all else fails and that little voice can’t just shut up, it’s time to up your own game. Fake it till you make it or at least, till you believe it. It is what a lot of people do now especially on social media, and one day, they ask themselves: jeez, when did I get here?

Be careful though that you’re not faking someone else’s life, so you do not regret your life at old age.

I particularly love this video from Amy Cuddy about faking it till you make it. It captures this nicely.

Watch it here:


Remember we are all are not perfect. It’s our quest for perfection that makes us think less of ourselves, when in fact, life is so much more amazing with all our imperfections and our drama. Imagine a world of perfect people – there will be no you, no me, and certainly, no Instagram ?.

What a sad world that will be.

PS: By the way, I wrote this under 10 minutes in response to an email I received from a new friend who thinks she’s an ant compared to other ‘good’ writers (her words, not mine).

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

5 Comments

  1. Dash

    March 23, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Thanks Ifesinachi. Really beautiful.

  2. Rejoice

    March 23, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Very beautiful article and helpful too.
    Thank you.

  3. Obi

    March 23, 2017 at 10:36 am

    So you used to draw, I think you should go back to that
    You never know what dreams may come! 🙂

  4. Nma

    March 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Goodstuff

  5. Ama

    March 23, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Helpful, will try your tips.

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