Seeking self-worth from being the most successful

Alex McNab

Los Angeles’ weather makes me insecure because the temperature in Hawaii is 30 degrees warmer. My best friend lives in Honolulu, a city nicknamed Paradise, and because of that, I feel an irrational sense of competition with a place that I try against all reason to convince myself is worse than Los Angeles.

I have spent all fall in a big, yellow jacket and HW basketball shorts, walking through the morning dew, still in denial of the fact that at 6 a.m. on a mid-December morning, Los Angeles’ eternal summer is no more than a myth. To put away my shorts and my summery sunglasses would be to admit defeat. It would symbolize my concession to the City of Honolulu that Paradise really is a better place than the City of the Angels, and that defeat would, through my twisted young adult logic, somehow amount to an ultimate admission of my lack of worth for living in a place known more for its smog than for its surfing. Perhaps it is because of puberty or teenage angst that this same process of competition, denial, and decrease in self-worth replicates itself in a number of situations in my life. I combat my feelings of inferiority with excuses.

Kennedy Green ’14 has a better grade than I do in Spanish class, but it’s okay because I didn’t take Spanish all last year, so I really can’t be expected to speak Spanish as well as she does. Covi Brannan ’15 is a better actor than I am, but both of her parents are actors, so it only makes sense that she inherited some natural talent. Sinclair Cook ’14 speaks Chinese better than I do, but he’s been studying Chinese since sixth grade. Sure I spent my junior year in Beijing, but nine months in China doesn’t make up for three additional years of study, does it?

I know that my reasoning is flawed and my excuses are ridiculous and that the very process of explaining myself in such a way demonstrates my lack of confidence, but I can’t help it. I have been searching for a place inside me that is content with what I have and who I am, but, as of yet, I can’t find it. Sometimes, I feel that I am only good when I am better than others. Even my accomplishments are decreased by a feeling that someone else did it better, and that drives me crazy.

I don’t feel this way all the time. I actually am generally regarded among my friends and those who know me as being extremely confident and supportive of others.

Rather, what I am describing represents a state of mind that is most powerful in my lowest moments, and I am not proud of this.

I don’t advertise my occasional absence of self-assurance or parade my part-time resentment of the successes of others.

I am ashamed, and I do my best to not only hide but also to get rid of the self-deprecating sentiments that overcome me.

I would not consider myself a particularly jealous person, but I believe that my light is often dimmed by the shadows cast by the greatness of others. Probably, this is all just a phase, and I’ll grow out of it.

One day, I’ll find encouragement and confidence beyond rare moments of total superiority, but not today.

Today, I have to be from the best place. I have to get the best grades. I have to be the best actor, the best columnist, the best Chinese speaker. I have to go to the best college if only to prove to myself that I’m worth it.