Greetings from the west coast of Australia where the cold of winter is creeping into my bones. I hope that, wherever you are in the world right now, you are taking good care of your bones ‘n all. Follow this link to my YouTube channel if you prefer to listen instead.
Mediocrity on my mind
Going on a friend’s recommendation, I recently watched the documentary about the life and death of the author, chef and TV personality, Anthony Bourdain. I’d never been a follower as cooking shows aren’t my thing, nevertheless I was interested in his story. What could have possibly driven someone who was apparently ‘so’ successful to kill himself as he did. While his story from the early days of working in New York restaurants was captivating, it was more of an eye-opener for me to see how his drive for success shaped him. Bourdain feared being ordinary. He set out each day to be extraordinary. He expressed abhorrence for mediocrity as if it were a mortal sin. I watched as he ate, drank, and smoked his way around the world with an obsession that made me feel uncomfortable. By the end of the documentary, I was seething. Not a single question was raised by the irresponsible documentary makers about how his lifestyle might have been a contributory factor to his depression and ultimate suicide. At no stage did they show any curiosity about how stressful if must have been to spend 350 days of the year away from his wife and daughter, travelling from country to country, eating the flesh of creatures such as pigs and snakes that he sometimes killed with his bare hands. There wasn’t a single comment on the fact that he consumed alcohol day and night during the making of each episode. Granted, some will figure this out for themselves, but many won’t. I was seething because the show glamorised Mr Bourdain’s lifestyle and portrayed his life as something we should all aspire to. With the idea of mediocrity on my mind ever since, I am wondering what it actually means to be mediocre. It raises a lot of questions for me. First of all, who is judging whether you are living a mediocre life or whether, in fact, you’re living the life that is right for you? Secondly, what is behind this fear of a mediocre life?
Who is judging?
We are all guilty, to some extent, of worrying about what other people think of us. I guess it’s just part of being human. We crave approval, we fear rejection. Once upon a time our survival depended on being accepted and protected by the tribe from the threat of predators or the risk of starvation. On that basis, it’s hard-wired into us to seek safety in numbers. But evolution has meant that in these modern times we are much more capable of caring for ourselves independently and has afforded us the ability and power to care for others too. We no longer need to fear the judgement of the tribal leaders. So, if that is true, who is judging us? I’d say it’s our own selves. I know that I am the harshest, most critical judge I will ever have. What about you? Do you criticise yourself in ways you wouldn’t dream of doing to a friend? Something in the way the celebrity chef pushed himself reeked of self-criticism, as though he was never satisfied with his achievements. Mr Bourdain took his craving of approval to a level where he lived in fear of anonymity. The way that he ensured he never became anonymous was by living up to his own expectations of being extraordinary every single day. Imagine what this kind of pressure would do to you!
Fear of a mediocre life
It’s normal to want to believe that each of us is living a meaningful life. But is the opposite of a meaningful life a mediocre one? I don’t think so. When you look up the word mediocre in the dictionary you will find that it means to be ordinary or commonplace. And pray tell, what is so awful about being ordinary? Can you find the beauty in the ordinary, such as the flower in this week’s featured photo? The Gerbera is a type of daisy and one of the most common flowers in the world. I’ve always loved daisies; they were everywhere during my childhood, and I spent hours making daisy chains. These commonplace flowers added a touch of beauty and simplicity to my wedding day.
What if the fear of a mediocre life prevented you from living a blissful life? For many years, I’ve enjoyed reading Buddhist teachings without truly understanding how they can be applied to my own life. It’s only been in this past year that I’ve begun to feel a deep connection to the guidance they provide on how to live a joyful life. This is partly because I am older and wiser now, but also because the journey I’ve been on in my self-development has enabled me to pull back the curtains to reveal the light. I can see things more clearly now. I see how my constant craving for recognition was making me depressed. Just like the constant cravings I used to experience during my drinking and smoking days stole the joy of living right out of my hands. My constant striving to succeed was underpinned by a malaise born of not believing that I was ever going to be good enough until I got confirmation from the world of my worth. I remember as far back as nine years old dreaming of my name being on the cover of a book and the world celebrating my achievements. I carried that dream with me until very recently. All those Buddhist teachings that I’d absorbed for decades finally delivered their wisdom to my conscious mind and I saw my dream for what it was. Having my name on the cover of a book wasn’t about writing a book. God no, it was about being seen, being validated, being applauded. It had nothing at all to do with being creative!
My obsession with having a book published made me an awful writer. I was caught in a vicious cycle of needing a publisher to believe in me before I could believe in myself as a writer. So, I wrote in a voice that I thought would be acceptable. I used self-imposed limitations on my own authentic self to fit in. Thankfully it got me a whole heap of rejection letters. I say thankfully because here I am, being truer than I’ve ever been. I’ve dropped the self-imposed limitations that I’d set for myself that included things like ‘my happiness depends on getting approval from a publisher’, ‘my value will be revealed by the number of people who subscribe to my website, my social media pages etc’, ‘when I earn x number of dollars, I will know my worth.’ You know the kind of thing I’m talking about, right?
Throw away the lens
It all comes down to the lens through which I was seeing my life and everything in it. For too long the lens was narrow and was dictated by the social constructs around me. It dawned on me recently that I can throw away that lens altogether if I choose. And that’s what I’ve done. It is liberating. I feel like a newborn again… wide-eyed, taking it all in with no judgement. In its place is a huge amount of curiosity for everyone and everything around me. After all the time spent on looking inwards, I have come to the realisation that you see what you want to see. What if you were to stop and truly reflect on what matters to you and understand that the drivers to succeed for many people aren’t necessarily coming from a place of real person growth. In a world full of influencers and platforms to influence, we are all at risk of getting lost in other people’s messy view of what success looks like. The best gift we can give ourselves is to dispense with the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ that other people espouse and live the life that feels right to us.
What if I were to say to you that you get to choose whether your life is enough for you, even if others think it’s ordinary? If you believe that you have everything to be happy right now, you will be. If you know yourself well and you are honest about what is important to you, then you will live a meaningful life. Don’t be fooled by other people’s idea of success. They don’t always get it right! And for goodness’ sake, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you and your life are not enough, especially yourself!
Thanks for being here today. Be gentle and respectful towards you always. Love, Gill x