Your OP resonates deeply within me. We might be somewhat alike.
In primary school, I was the odd loner, who wouldn't mix with the other kids. I didn't understand the point of their silly games or social rituals. During recess, I used to sit on a bench, on the sidelines of the school playground, while the others played cat & mouse. And feeling so different bothered me, because I felt inadequate.
However, as I've grown, I've developped new insights on myself. Although socializing, dealing with others' emotions, and small talk are definitely my weakness... I also have a very unique set of strengths. And you most likely do too. You're probably good at rational thinking and crunching numbers, since you've studied chemistry and finance.
For instance, I'm a rational problem solver. I'm a deep thinker. I'm able to keep my cool when others lose it over small details. I'm an independent contrarian: I see crowds as a bunch of sheeps going in one direction, and I often find joy in taking the opposite direction. I'm proud of these strengths, that make up who I am. It's easy to have tunnel vision on our shortcomings, to the point where we forget the areas where we shine.
To this day, I'm a lone wolf. I only keep in touch with the very small group of people who matter to me. And I don't even see them that often.
And that's okay, because there are plenty of things to do in life besides making small talk. I find joy in pursuing my hobbies, or working on various skills and goals. Or even just kicking back, and taking a walk in nature. I'm OK with who I am, regardless of the fact that I'm not the most pleasant company. I'm determined to live life according to my unique values, and that's what matters to me.
Over the years, I've developed my own ways of coping with it all. It goes into non materialism, an attempt to abolish egoism, an appreciation for the smaller things. I could spend my time looking at all of the flaws in my life, I could compare my own life to others, but experience has shown me just how harmful this is to me. I've learned to in a manner, respect what I have accomplished in-spite of my own flaws. It is a pretty big step to be able to do that, it is also a really important one.
Ultimately, happiness does not come from accomplishments, material possession, or even being more accomplished than others. It is just a sensation that occurs in your mind, it can be reached without those things. It doesn't even require you to get into new age positivism.
Life has not passed me by, I've been living it. I don't have a nice career, I am not important, I will have no legacy, but these things are not necessary. Indeed, life is full of crap, there is plenty out there that is horrible, and there is plenty out there that we have absolutely no control over.. those things, which are beyond the realm of my control, are the things I choose not to focus on.
Very deep insights. That's the kind of conversation I like! I'm glad that you've written this, because it might open the way to an interesting exchange of opinions.
First off, I 100% agree that we should focus on doing what we can with what we've got. And let go of what's out of our control. I've been feeling a lot more laidback since I've adopted this point of view.
Like you, I'm also a non-materialist. I'd describe myself as a minimalist. I love distilling life to its bare essentials, and getting rid of frivolous material clutter.
However, I do find value in accomplishments. Accomplishments might not make me happy. But they do give me confidence, and each success opens my mind to a realm of new possibilities. "If I've been capable of doing this against all odds, then what other challenges can I successfully face?
" Additionally, pursuing goals gives me a sense of purpose. The hustler mentality makes waking up in the morning more... satisfying.
I've tried the whole 'live like a monk' thing. While meditating, abolishing the ego and appreciating the smaller things in life greatly contribute to my wellbeing... I still have a lot of energy to dispense. And I don't feel quite at peace with myself when i'm not working on my goals and challenging myself to grow by constantly facing new obstacles.
On the other hand, chasing goals is also addicting. In fact, it can lead down another rabbit hole... ie the burn out.
That's why I'd say it's important to balance the egotistical stuff with things you've mentioned, like gratitude.
What's your input on this?