Last week I was perusing the magazines at the airport, as I do when I’m trying to kill time. I stumbled upon the latest Inc. cover. I picked it up and skimmed the main article.
The feminist in me started cheering, “Damn straight the next Steve Jobs is going to be a woman!” But the recovering overachiever in me felt disturbed.
Because even though my first reaction was “Hell to the yes,” the green-eyed comparison monster quickly robbed me of my easy girl power pleasure. For the next thought in my head was,
“Should I be trying to be the next Steve Jobs? I’m so far behind. I really do need to move to the Silicon Valley. Am I letting women down everywhere?”
I was on the precipice poised to tumble head first into that wormhole of self-judgement and pity — the kind that inevitably ends with me binge watching Arrested Development under my covers.
Instead I took a deep breath and asked myself why I would think such a thing.
“Because I am a woman. Because I have two Stanford engineering degrees. Because I’m an entrepreneur. Because I’m smart. Because I like to be the best. Because I want to save the world. Because I’m arrogant enough to think that I can save the world. Because I like money. Because I like power. Because I am a little masochistic. Because I want to leave a legacy. Because I want to be remembered.”
As a recovering overachiever I’ve learned that covers like this (not to mention lists like 30 Under 30) are triggers for me. When my selfie-self starts to feel inadequate my confidence begins to slip away. This catalyzes my hardwired overachiever thought patterns and habits. Which leads to questions like “Should I be the next Steve Jobs?” and (when I can’t mindfully recognize what’s happening and stop it) late night google research into startup jobs, business schools and fellowships (which inevitably ends with Hulu binge watching). Why do I do this? Because for 29 years I have told myself a story — that achievement is the clearest path to love and a great life.
Except here’s the thing, that story’s not true and I know it. That’s why I’m a recovering overachiever. See nowhere in the list of reasons for why I entertained the idea of trying to be the next Steve Jobs did I mention:
a. Because it will make me happy.
b. Because it will be a path to kindness, love and a full life.
c. Because it will let me share my special talents with the world.
Those are the things that matter to me. Those are the things that lead to a great life. I know because I’ve had a couple near(ish)-death experiences. Both times I discovered that my accolades didn’t matter.
I didn’t grade my life in awards, net worth and IPOs.
I measured my life in the thousands of small acts of kindness that added up to large mountains of love. That’s what made my life worthy. That’s what still makes my life worthy. And it is a daily, imperfect struggle to remind myself that.
So dear selfie-self, don’t try to drag me into a comparison brawl. I don’t want to be the next Steve Jobs. I don’t want to be the current Elizabeth Holmes (who seems awesome by the way). I want to be Kasey Hurlbutt. Because I’m enough. So please let me be.
I walked back to my seat in the boarding area and started the next chapter of Rising Strong.