What does it actually mean to be an inspiration?
I have no fucking clue. I never even thought about that if it weren’t for the fact that lately, I’ve been hearing that a lot. On my 24th birthday, some of my friends sent me birthday wishes and they said that I inspire them or I motivate them, and I just blanked because I never thought I am capable of such an impact on people. It was also the case with a couple of my juniors that I helped with their undergraduate thesis, they said that I encourage them to be better and they want to be more like me. I became a role model to them, an inspiring individual that made them work harder. I unknowingly became the inspiration that they look up to.
I used to think that being an inspiration only applies to people with remarkable achievements and impressive experiences that I never thought I’m eligible to be one. Among all of the things people say about me, I often hear that I’m ambitious, dedicated, and guaranteed to be someone successful. Those that I hear time and time again, I’m more used to it. I’ve been known as a strong-willed son of a bitch who will stop at nothing to be what I want. But I never thought I could be called inspirational.
I tried to look it up, what kind of characteristics should someone have to be dubbed as inspirational? Some adjectives came up more than the others. Optimistic. Positive. Courageous. Empathetic. Honest. A good example for the community.
I laughed, I am none of that at all. I often think I’m more of a realist and it makes me a bit of a downer or pessimistic sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very much determined to get what I want but I’m also always thinking about failing or thinking about all the possible ways things could go wrong (because most of the time it will), and I find myself always preparing for the worst-case scenario. I also overthink a lot that I usually ended up not taking any chances if the cons outweighed the pros so I don’t think I’m very courageous when it comes to making decisions. See, I’m far from a good example. I don’t have it in me to be empathetic or caring or honest, because when I set my mind to something, I don’t care about anything else. When I want to achieve something, I neglect people I care about, solely to accomplish what I want when I want it. All the selfishness and the ambition that are part of why I am where I am right now shouldn’t be an inspiration. It shouldn’t motivate people to be like me.
What they see is the result, not the struggle nor the effort to get there. They don’t know how many people got hurt and pushed away in the process, they don’t know about the lonely nights or the way I pushed myself to my limit. All the way they describe me; independent; ambitious; strong; it makes me feel good about myself but some days it feels like a burden to me. What I don’t remember though, of course they will see my personality as such because that’s what I show to the world. Of course they didn’t see the struggle, the blood, and tears or the reason why I am all of that, and it’s not their fault. It’s because I never showed them the repercussions of my action, I hid it neatly behind the great exterior that they see. An alpha female. An independent career woman. An aspiring leader.
Honestly, I am all of that and more because I have no fucking choice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing. It’s fucking great to hear how people praise me but at what cost? The pressure is unimaginable. The more compliments and approval I heard, the more I became addicted to being the best. Like I could achieve anything, like I could be anything I want. It’s ironic because some days it made me feel so confident about myself, like I’m the kind of person that can (and will) take over the world, yet some other days it made me feel insecure, scared, and unsure of everything I stand for. Crippling with anxiety and the feeling of inadequacy. It’s all in my head because I hold such high standards for myself that I won’t even allow room for failure. After all, it is not an option. I always push myself to work harder, to be smarter, and ultimately to be the best. All my life I grew up with the feeling of insecurity because I saw how my siblings turned out, how successful yet broken and incomplete they are, and it’s all up to me to be better than that. I have to be exactly like them, but better. Improved. Perfect. It’s what my parents wanted, and it’s my burden and mine alone to make it come true.
There were times I felt like I could go insane with all the pressure, not only from my family but also from my own expectations. I have to be this, I have to be that, I have to succeed at this, I have to be the best at that. It’s never-ending. Even when I did achieve something great, I felt like it was not enough. I always felt like it could be more, I have to be more. It doesn’t help that my dad was very cold and distant, especially since the age gap between us was comically large, and he never expressed himself to me. What was expected to be a proud reaction, to me it felt like a critique, like an expression of disapproval or dissatisfaction. There are parts of my personality that I always blame on him, that despite how people see it, for me I shouldn’t have to be like this. I shouldn’t be this obsessive and impatient like I don’t care about anything else except for my personal gain. I always feel like I’m egotistical, stubborn, nonchalant and I shouldn’t be an example. I didn’t think I deserve to ever be a good role model that people look up to. I keep searching why, I want to know what do they see in me because all I see is that I don’t deserve it.
So when my junior said she wants to be more like me, I asked her why. Her answer was simple, “Because I know you’re young and you’ve been through a lot, yet you can still be someone great. You just don’t give up.”
Oh. So that’s why. I always feel like my life has barely begun and I tend to underestimate how much I went through and how much I’ve accomplished in the 24 years that I live. But that made me realize, okay, maybe this is what they see. Maybe it’s the persistence and the struggle, and the fact that no matter what happened to me I always stand up again and keep going. Maybe that’s what made me who I am today. It’s not always the pressure, the tragic backstory, or the ambition that takes me to where I am, it’s my persistence. It’s the tenacity, the determination, and the fact that I do not give up even when I know my life is a mess and I have a difficult journey. I don’t give up. I keep trying. Even when there are times I wanted and tried to surrender yet I’m still here and I still keep on going. Maybe that’s what motivates them, that if someone as broken and complex as I am can make it, so can they. Maybe that’s the inspirational part.
I still feel like I don’t deserve the title but it actually humbles me down. It brings me back down to this earth, to feel like I’m such an irrelevant part of this universe but somehow I get to change people’s life. Somehow I influence people to be better, to try harder, to not give up despite how life treats them. It opens my eyes to how much we can change the world or encourage people, given the right opportunity. It’s the simple things that made me realize that I do have the power to be a good person, to always be helpful, to always give more to the community. It makes me want to be less selfish because now I don’t just want to accomplish my goals for my own personal satisfaction but also because of the examples that I set for the people who look up to me. It makes me want to be a better version of myself every day.
Maybe that’s what it means to be an inspiration. I still have no clue, but now I know that I don’t need to be perfect or to be the best all the time, I just have to try to be better than I was yesterday.