I’ve spent so many years taking apart my mind in regards to my mental health (anxiety and depression), but it’s taken me so long to realize some of the other aspects of my mind, despite my introspection.
I’m a creative person, but I faced many difficulties through school and at some of my jobs as well. I knew deep within that I had the skills and talent, but in certain situations my skills felt like they would sometimes become almost totally blocked.
The competition in design school was also fierce, with having many design school colleagues who were super talented and ahead of me in certain ways. Although I had a thick skin, I still felt my self-confidence in my design was already much lower as a result of me comparing myself to them.
I wasn’t even fully aware of this problem until a few years ago. However I was at least clued in on it about 10 years ago, when a manager at a startup I had worked for said he noticed I suffered in some of the design or coding projects where there were a lot of restrictions placed. So when I had to design things in a certain way and with a certain style, I was always trying to adhere to this concept of what people were looking for, rather than what I felt was best. Many people work fine under this structure, but I struggled.
The manager noticing this difficulty I had with restrictions was news to me and I also didn’t agree with their management style, so I chalked it all up to having a poor work environment (though I’m sure this was part of it too).
I also grew up with years of private piano and flute lessons. My flute teacher in particular noticed that I didn’t do well with structure imposed on me, but could sometimes easily outperform others when adhering to my own structure. She then adjusted her typical teaching style for me based on that. Even then though, I was so young and didn’t really think much of it.
Because I was always an at least average student in school and I didn’t have any obvious learning disabilities, this was a difficult thing for me to really notice for most of my life. I was good at adapting and fitting into situations I felt I needed to fit into. I wasn’t like some people who just said “fuck it” and dropped out of everything and found my own way. Sometimes I wish I had!
I still am not sure how to get around working creatively within restrictions. However, because I was always good at following my soul and listening to myself, I made sure not to stay in a job where I was unhappy or where I wasn’t performing my best. For the last 7-8 years I have worked in a place where I set my own structure and had much more creative freedom, and I have done well with this, while conversely some people struggle in an environment where there isn’t enough structure.
One of the reasons I wanted to bring this up is that like most of us know, there still isn’t enough room in the educational system for people like me. Education definitely is not a one-size-fits-all solution in terms of how it’s structured. This used to be the case for the workforce as well, but with the rise of the gig economy and new, creative ways of making money online and elsewhere, people are beginning to have new kinds of opportunities that allow them more freedom in that way.
I’ve discovered for me that it’s a must. I need to be in a position where I am paving my own path and I don’t have someone setting the structure for my life.
The moral of the story is: Never feel lesser if you feel like your life path isn’t working for you in one way or another, or if you’re comparing yourself to others and you don’t feel you match up. It really is about figuring out what’s compatible for YOU, and that can take a really, really long time to figure out — especially if you are working within a system or a society that isn’t acknowledging differences so much in that particular way, or is looking down on people who don’t “fit” with the current value standard.