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  • Writer's pictureVedashree Khambete Sharma

Has-Been / Yet-To-Be

I recently watched Kanan Gill's excellent stand-up special 'Is This It?' and it reminded me of this post I had written way back when. I'd written than two years before my first book came out and when I read it today, I'm still struck by the tinge of dissatisfaction in it.

Of course, I've learned a lot since then. One of the things I've learned about is Gifted Child Burnout.

Simply put, it's when a child who's consistently told that s/he is sooooo smart, soooo talented, just looking like a wow! converts all that validation into expectations of excellence. From themselves. In EVERYTHING. All the time. As an adult, this translates into deep, crushing disappointment when you realise that the world isn't handing you what you have always been led to believe are your just rewards.

And it's really twisted because a) you might work hard, be very good at what you do and STILL not be successful enough because you don't have the secret third ingredient required for success: sheer, dumb luck. And b) you may actually be quite successful in life by most parameters and STILL feel disappointed that you aren't quite as successful as you had hoped, because your expectations from yourself are just that goddamned high.

I know - why won't someone suffering from this ridiculous condition just cut themselves some slack and learn to be happy with what they have?

Because adults who were considered super-smart as kids, the whole lot of us, we can't. We aren't wired like that. And it's difficult to unlearn behaviour you have basically internalised for years. Because that would mean going for therapy. Which takes time away from the pursuit of success. Which... again, we aren't wired to stop doing.

Look, I get it: there is nothing sexy about this. Chronic dissatisfaction with your lot in life is a cornerstone of modern living and really nothing special anymore. Besides, not enough success is not quite failure. You can't make an inspirational movie about overcoming it. There are no unsurmountable odds here. No conspiracy against you personally. The world doesn't hate you - it just doesn't care. What kind of self-help book could one possibly write about this? 7 Ways To Get Your Head Out Of Your Ass?

It's... it's... trivial. It's nonsense. It's everything.

Because to those of us who have expected unparalleled success most of our lives, anything less than that casually throws us into a pit of despair. You're mediocre, we tell ourselves, you're nothing. It's not your fault, of course, but you're just not... good enough. Which is a cutting insult to someone who's been told all their lives that they are exceptional and have sooooo much potential.

The cognitive dissonance is truly cray-cray.

I can tell you how I deal with it though: by accepting that this state of affairs is quite simply, it. Would I like to have my books turn bestsellers, get 7-figure advances and have publishers fight over my next book? OF COURSE. But failing that, is not me failing. Success delayed isn't success denied. And even a modicum of success is worth celebrating.

And who knows? Perhaps I am destined for greater success, just years and years and years later. Like Toni Morrison (NOT comparing myself to her, I'm not deluded!) or Samuel L Jackson or Julia Child.

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