Never Enough Syndrome

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After a whirlwind weekend, I am back from the annual IACP Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I learned from some of the country’s most renowned culinary leaders.

The conference allowed me the opportunity to connect with tons of professionals working in the culinary field. I can never predict where or when, but I connected with someone in the elevator on my way to grab a coffee, once at a well-chosen seat at a workshop, and another time poolside, over cocktails in Los Angeles! These people have all enriched my life in unexpected and fabulous ways.

But as I continued to attend sessions, panels, and making new friends throughout the weekend, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. The more I learned from them, the more I began suffering from “Never Enough Syndrome,” an insidious psychological phenomenon that comes from being around people in your field who are at the top of their game, thriving, doing everything you want to do. In essence, they are killing it, while you are not.   

I was floored while attending a panel on food writing, once I realized that the panel consisted of badass royalty of the food journalism world, in charge of running culinary content for The New York Times, Food 52, The Mom 100, and The Washington Post.

Emily Fleischaker, the enterprise strategy editor for NYT Cooking, shared a great story about the incredible success of #TheStew. If you’re living under the same rock I was, never having heard of The Stew, it was a spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric recipe created by badass New York Times columnist Alison Roman that went beyond viral for the simple fact that it required minimal prep work with accessible ingredients, a short cooking time, and it seemed like something a home cook could easily prepare.

The recipe was published right after Thanksgiving 2017, and I swear, a billion people have made it since.

This upset me for a couple of reasons. First, the stew really does look amazing. Why hadn’t I thought of it? Why don’t I write recipes for the Times? Why doesn’t my chickpea stew look like that?

Second, Alison Roman seems like a really cool person. Why are we not friends? How is she creating such cool, fun content and why don’t I have all the followers she has? Sigh. I was riddled with uncharacteristic and unpleasant envy, which dragged me down during the last day of the conference.

I came home with “Never Enough Syndrome” lingering in my bones, and didn’t really know how to address it, so I laid on the couch and cuddled with my pre-teen son, grateful that he still let me cuddle with him.

We watched “Fighting With My Family,” a movie about a wrestling family who get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for the WWE. When the younger sister earns a spot in the program, the older brother remains at home, teaching wrestling in the community - and even training a blind person to wrestle! As their paths are diverging, the brother is riddled with toxic envy, and his sister says to him, “just because millions of people aren’t cheering when you do it, it doesn’t mean it’s not important.”

Boy, was that statement true.

While I may never create a viral recipe, or have the most-viewed, most-fabulous Instagram Story, I have a beautiful, imperfect family to cook for. And today, as my “Never Enough Syndrome” dissipates, I am going to walk away from envy and make dinner.

I am going to make The Stew. It looks delicious and the people who matter the most to me will love it. And that my friends, is more than enough.


Julia NordgrenComment