Still having problems -- "greatness", self-comparison, etc.
August 17, 2013 4:36 PM Subscribe
I initially felt better after last week’s question, but everything came back... I think the answers last week (which were very helpful, by the way) helped me resolve specific career questions, but not the underlying emotional issues. I’ll try to explain it better this time.
I’m not worried so much about fame as it is about “greatness”. That is, I want my achievement/contribution to be “great”, and I’m more concerned with recognition in intellectual circles than among the general public. I spend most of my time reading biographies of people like this -- Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper, Elon Musk, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Max Planck, etc. -- and thinking, “I’m about where they were at this age, right? I’m on track” or “My IQ is roughly in their range, isn’t it?” or “It looks like I don’t have to really differentiate myself until university, right?” but then not being entirely convinced. I worry that I’m too late -- that, by this point, I should have won ISEF or something like that, or that I should at least be more focused -- and/or that I will turn out to simply not be innately intelligent enough.
I thought that one possible solution would be to figure out what I’m “passionate” about and to just do that. But I don’t really have any “passions”... I want to learn about math/logic/science/technology/etc., but I haven’t been “fascinated by mathematics from an early age”, and there’s no emotional component to my interest. So, I feel like I’m not being “authentic” -- that I’m guiding my interests based on my need for “greatness” -- and that therefore I am setting myself up for failure and that I will not enjoy a career in math/science/etc. enough to make important contributions to it. I feel like all of those who have achieved “greatness” (e.g. the people listed above) didn’t care about it or seek it out but simply did what they genuinely enjoyed. I think that maybe this is just a personality thing, and that my emotions aren’t as strong as those of other people (I’ve dealt with this before). I also think that I probably have control over my own “passions”, but I can’t convince myself of it.
This is making it difficult for me to concentrate. For example, I have started reading a few articles in Nature every day, researching things that I’m not familiar with, etc. Sometime in the middle, I’m usually interrupted by thoughts of science competitions, and I start trying to determine whether this might make a good project. Then I feel like I’m forcing it -- I feel guilty that I can’t just learn about science without immediately trying to leverage it -- and I feel guilty that I don't already know what it is that I'm looking up. Or, I come across the name of a famous scientist, and I impulsively look up their biography/Wikipedia page and compare myself. The same thing goes for dabbling in code -- I usually stop because I spend the whole time coming up with startup ideas, realizing that none of them are good and that I wouldn't be able to build them anyway because of my lack of coding knowledge, and then feeling like the whole thing is artificial.
So I’m stuck in the position of desperately wanting to be a “great intellectual”, and feeling guilty about it, without even knowing what I want to actually do with my life. I don’t want to have to deal with this pressure anymore, and I definitely don’t want to think about it every waking minute like I do now. I know that several comments noted that I am self-absorbed... I don’t know how to fix this, though. I have one close friend who is leaving for college in a couple of weeks. Also, I’ve always been kind of self-absorbed, except spending most of my time in my head never used to make me feel so awful. The loss of concentration and resulting guilt and time-wasting is the last straw... I am ready to burst into tears out of frustration.
Again, thank you all for your comments last time. They were very helpful.