Finding magic in myself, even when I feel like I’m not enough
How I'm overcoming my feelings of insecurity as a woman with SMA
A common tendency among women and girls is to feel like we’re not enough. This insecurity is threaded throughout the media we consume. Netflix’s “One Day at a Time,” a sitcom featuring three generations of Cuban American women, comes to mind, as does the 2004 high school film “Mean Girls.” Sometimes it’s in the subtext, like in Taylor Swift’s discography, or it’s explicit, like in Olivia Rodrigo’s.
The insecurity is present in this column. Though I’m trying my best to choose the right words decisively, they are all carefully, painstakingly arranged as I work through the push and pull inside of me.
As the dust settles on the work I’ve produced and the engagements I’ve had between January and March, I’ve had to confront an uncomfortable truth: I don’t feel like I’m enough for myself.
Usually, as with the shows and music I’ve mentioned, not feeling like you’re enough stems from how other people treat you. It’s someone else’s judgment that causes fissures in your confidence, that lodges a longing in you to be in an “in” group.
But for me, no single person has been destructive to my general self-esteem lately. Quite the opposite. Everyone has been supportive and kind, celebratory of my achievements. Yet the insecurity lingers.
I used to think having a fulfilling job, friends I can rely on, new life experiences, and a romantic partner would help me feel satisfied with myself and my life. If you told me just two years ago that I would have all of those things, I’d think you were mocking my dreams. I have all of those things now. In many ways, my life has never been better. Why don’t I feel better than I do?
The answer hit me some weeks back, as I was reflecting on where I’m at in my life while texting my best friend Brie. I feel stuck, despite my progress and achievements. There are standards I’m holding myself to that I haven’t attained or cannot attain due to SMA. There are life milestones I want to reach but possibly never will because of our society’s developing understanding of disability and care work.
In short, I’ve been telling myself that better isn’t enough. To quote “High School Musical 2’s” Sharpay Evans, I want “bigger and better and best.”
From best to worst
One of my mum’s criticisms of me is that I rarely express gratitude for where I’m at in life and the support available to me. Every time she does so, I counter that I am grateful, but I think things can always be better.
I stand by my views. But I now acknowledge I’ve been leaning too much into the notion that things can be better, and it’s harming me. It’s held me hostage to stupid thoughts — like jealousy of Bella Ramsey’s acclaim for her role as Ellie in “The Last of Us” and Fletcher touring with Panic! At The Disco — to the point where I wonder what’s the point in trying to do anything.
The envy comes from my unending grief over life choices that SMA denied me, the drama and singing careers I never had. But the bulk of my desire to constantly better myself and one day be the best is mostly thanks to the fear that I could lose all the progress I’ve made.
People without formal education don’t typically have columns on news sites. They don’t get recommendations for jobs from people they admire. They don’t get essays published in academic books. They don’t receive professional offers based on the work they do.
But I do.
It sounds like a big grift. And I’m afraid that, one day, the people who read my work and the ones who helped me will feel tricked.
So, I over-worry. I overcompensate until I’m overwhelmed.
But in the process I make mistakes, I neglect the people most important to me, and then I crash and burn out. I go from being at my best to feeling at my worst.
Fletcher recently posted a video on TikTok of her talking to fans at a concert. In the clip, she says that the biggest thing she’s struggled with in her life is performing in front of people. She goes on to advise that if you run toward what you’re most scared of, there’s magic on the other side of that.
For me right now, that’s learning to be comfortable with myself, finding balance while doing what I can to make things better, and not letting the voices in my head tell me I don’t deserve to work. It’ll be hard, but I’m going to run toward those goals and work on overcoming my insecurity.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.