It's true for me that the night is when I struggle the most to quiet my mind, and the little inner voices that want to remind me of my failings. Some of them are actual; others are imagined, or circumstances beyond my control which, tinged with blame my rational mind knows I shouldn't accept, I find myself reliving as I fight to get to sleep. It's all very well knowing you shouldn't worry about something, but it's quite another hushing those night thoughts and finding peace of mind when so many things are vying to steal it from you.
It is often in the night that I do my soul-searching, my tackling of unspoken fears and unrealised desires. In the small hours when the world is dark and relatively quiet, while some memory or pressing thought has hauled me out of slumber, I tread through fog in search of clarity. Sometimes it's just because I want to go back to sleep; other times it's more vital than that, and I need an answer I will still remember in the morning.
A lot of these thoughts centre on a deeply-rooted fear that I am not enough in some way. Not clever enough; not accomplished enough; not savvy enough; not attractive enough in many senses of the word; just, not enough to succeed. And what idea of success am I holding anyway? Because I've given up trying to impress those who likes me best for my academics - to them, I've done nothing impressive since I left University. I've given up trying to impress those who only ever expressed admiration for my body, because it's either too big for some or too small for others, too pale, too tall, if only I just changed X it would be perfect - there's no need for me to try and appease them. And this year I've let go of trying to have the best answer to the 'and what do you do' question at weddings/parties, because frankly I don't like the idea that people are reduced to their job status or that their value primarily sits in the activities they undertake.
I'm far more interested in how and why people do, not so much what. I prefer to be more focused on how I feel in my body and loving it as it is than worrying about what it looks like to others. I believe academic ability is just a tool, and success in exams alone doesn't necessarily determine success in life.
Success is a broader concept. For me, it's fulfilling the deep-seated passions I've had since childhood; creating what only I can create, and being satisfied in it; it's living a life that has a valuable impact on those I care about and the wider world, even if it doesn't look spectacular. It's overcoming obstacles with patience and determination; encouraging others; finding the purity and honesty that is possible in humanity.
Too often I forget my perspective on success in favour of someone else's. Too often I find myself weakened by doubt, held back by anxiety, uncertain of success and therefore unwilling to try. However, I am working on finding confidence in the right places. I am grateful for friends who can pick me up, and slap me out of it if need be! I remember that I will not be the only one struggling, and therefore it would be good for me to be more outward-focused.
I hope anyone who has read through this and connects with it will know that it's not a unique struggle, and we can be there to support one another. It's exhausting battling people's assumptions whatever state you're in, and to finally find some freedom from specific fears or pressures only to have others try and put you back in your box is a sad and demoralising experience, yet a common one. It makes me very aware of how vital it is that as I learn not to define myself by my perceived failings or weaknesses; also to unlearn any default negative view of others, even if it's one they have encouraged. It is my sincere desire that humanity can function more on the basis of building one another up rather than pulling each other down, and that confidence is attainable and not confused with arrogance or vanity.