This post might sound like a rant. While it is right in a way, the underlying issue is subtle and painful. I feel this issue often and have seen many many people face this directly or indirectly to the point it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I look at it or hear it.
So here I go ...
Once while reading the comic strips of "Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson, I came across one piece that made me ponder.
The titular character Calvin scored a C grade in a test while his friend Suzy gets an A. Despite getting a lower grade, Calvin was happy. When asked he said that people wouldn't expect a lot from him, and that way he'll be satisfied.
That was a curious way to see it. During school, and even in college, there was a pressure on me to do well and keep the grades up. I loved studying, and it was fun for the most part, and thus, I did study well without the need for external motivation.
But then again, when I look back at my past, I felt that I could have been happier with less pressure on my head. I am glad that I got good grades and performed very well and all. Sometimes I feel that even if I had taken things a bit lightly, I would have ended up in the same place where I am, only less troubled and even happier.
While some of you know this, but in case you didn't know, I was suffering from Depression and Anxiety disorder for the past five years. When I tried to understand why it happened to me, I consulted a psychologist, and she suggested that I am a perfectionist; and that is making me unhappy.
Like a reflex, I refused to accept her explanation citing that I am anything except that. She told me to think about that and meet her the next time and explain what happened. I went back and reflected, and to my surprise, subconsciously I was.
As to how I became a perfectionist, I think it was because I was putting a lot of expectations on myself. Reflecting upon what happened in the past in various incidents, a lot of people put a lot of expectations on me. While I loved helping people, somehow down the line the always high expectations got imbibed into me. So, I got to a point where even when people didn't expect much from me, I started interpreting that they wanted a lot. In this regard, imagine what disappointments would feel.
I guess somewhere in late 2013 and early 2014, the mounting pressure I subconsciously built for myself snapped, and I felt lost. I thought that I wouldn't be able to meet all my expectations and hence I won't be happy at all. And I know for sure that it was that singular moment that put me in Depression.
As to why people put a lot of expectations, maybe because I was available way too often. It could be that I was going out of my way to reach unreasonable and unrealistic targets. Or perhaps it is because I was not at all saying "no" where I should have. Maybe it is because I did not set boundaries correctly; Perhaps I should have put my foot down firm and took a big stand.
There are many maybes here. Each one suited a particular situation.
There were a few events that bothered me a lot in this process. One of those issues was when I had a tough time with my PhD. Due to a variety of reasons I submitted my resignation. One of my so-called "friend" messaged me hearing my troubles and decisions from other friends and said he/she was "Disappointed" that I did not share the problem with him/her. I was outside and travelling at that time, and so I could not meet him/her. And when I asked how he/she got to know about this problem, he/she refused to answer and stopped.
A few days later, when I came back to the campus, he/she called me. I thought he/she wanted to meet me in person to talk about my issues. Instead, he/she invited me to ask if I can come to his/her lab and help his/her code run correctly.
That left a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, this person was feeling okay to call me casually to help him/her fix a trivial programming issue, whereas he/she could only text me when his/her so-called friend is in a career crisis? Was that all I am? A so-called problem solver, ready to be called out when one is running in hot water?
That is one of many examples wherein I saw many people look at me like a disposable tool to get their job done and forget about me later. The first thing that came to many of these people was that I am an intelligent person and things are a cake walk for me.
To break the myth, it was never easy.
I guess only a few people knew me truly and cared for me. Just these people saw the full picture of what I am and realised that I am more than what meets the eye. I am immensely grateful for them.
Other than a rant, what am I trying to say here?
You are more than your gift. Stop seeing people for one single trait they have. Especially yourself. If one person is a teacher, or a writer, or intelligent, or a painter etc., then that is not the only thing that defines them. That is a gift, either obtained by birth or developed over time.
Seeing such people for only one aspect and disregarding or being indifferent to all other factors and traits is IMHO, objectification of the first order.