Kami Baker

The Conundrum Of Self-Deprecation

No matter how much I accomplish, it never feels like enough

In January 2014, I was brought on as a contributing teen writer at The Huffington Post. I had the privilege of writing for a platform that also features thought leaders and CEOs from around the globe. I was taught that my voice mattered as much as theirs did, and that I could proudly speak up about the things I care about. My talents were developed, my confidence became brighter and more vivid, and my love for the field multiplied.

I will forever be grateful for that opportunity, as it has brought me so much, both emotionally and career-wise — but it also caused me to set a very high standard for myself and my career before I was even old enough to hold a retail job or drive a car. The self-confidence I gained from the experience did not change as I got older, but my attitude toward the successes of others did. I would read the pieces my peers wrote and watch their reach on social media rise and see them on red carpets. I remained a blogger and a dedicated Instagram creator in Nebraska while they went to college in New York or got internships at Instagram HQ in California. My dreams had come true, but I was so jealous of everyone else. I still am.

I’m confident in my work. I dedicate ample time to researching all the topics I choose to tackle. I have been featured in local magazines and have written for so many blogs and publications that I have trouble keeping track of my career’s timeline. At 18, my résumé is already so hot that, with the right education and practice, I know that my future is in my own hands.

But I still don’t feel like it’s enough. When one of my pieces goes live, I am stoked. My heart is full, my friends and family reach out with pride, and I look in the mirror and soak in my reflection: a young woman who is happy and fulfilled because she pursued her dream. But then, as soon as one of my fellow MTV Ambassadors’ pieces is published, I self-deprecate.

Umm, hello? Earth to Kamrin? How did I not think of something that good? Look at all of those shares! She has her own column! Her pieces are amazing! I will never create something so stimulating and relatable!

I can’t tell if my self-deprecation keeps me humble and vulnerable, or if it’s detrimental and unhealthy to my creative process — as well as to my general well-being. I’ve spent years writing about mental health and positivity, but feel like the way I think about my co-writers falsifies what I preach. Rather than being inspired and motivated by what my peers write and produce, which I adore, I feel jealous and grumpy — and then guilty for feeling that way. It ain’t cute.

But while my jealous frivolity has caused inner turmoil, it has also forced me to take a step back and analyze what I really want. And I’ve found that I have no idea.

All high school students are familiar with the “What do you want to do?” questions adults ask us before college. But while I thought that would end when I started my freshman year, I’ve realized that I still get the same questions — it’s just that the people asking them are different. Rather than friends’ parents, now peers ask me what I want to do with my degrees.

“I’m not sure,” I say unsteadily. “I just know I want to write. Whatever I’m doing, I want to do more of that, and I want to do it better and better.”

My answer is simultaneously lackluster and poetic. I have found what I generally want to do with my life, but don’t have any specific answers. I know I’m studying the right thing and have the best kind of experience, but still feel like I haven’t done enough.

I wonder if this feeling of inadequacy stems from a broader cultural standard of perfection — if, as a young and impressionable woman, I am made to feel lesser than my peers and those “above me.” I wonder if the goosebumps sensation I get from writing about the feelings in my core is something that can carry me, hammock-style with a reasonable paycheck, in the years to come — or if I might eventually “sell out” and write clickbait for a pretty salary. I wonder if this is all my anxiety talking.

But mostly, I want to continue to live up to the name I’ve made for myself, write feature stories about cool dogs, earn more success in college, and find deeper value in the work of others.

As Natalie Frank once said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a new room.” After realizing that, I think I’m happy right here.

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