I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of people telling me how I should be living my own damn life.
That’s a bit of an angry way to start a blog post, so let me put it another way:
There’s so much pressure on all of us nowadays to ‘be the best we can be’ and ‘live our best lives’ (writing those bloody phrases just made me throw up in my mouth a little).
But what ever happened to just being satisfied with what you’ve got?
The Path to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions
Now, I’m all for making the most out of this gift we call life.
But I’m sick and tired of the assumption that how we go about making the most out of our said lives should, and must be, the same for everyone.
Since school, especially for those of us who went in the 80s and 90s, we’ve had it drilled into us that we should ‘reach for the stars’ and we can all ‘be anything we want to be’.
In theory, this is a good message.
In practice, it’s misleading at best and downright stupid at worst.
Because let’s imagine that everyone in Class 4b wants to be a famous rock star. In fact, they want to be the best musician who ever lived.
Well, here lies the problem.
Because even without taking things like talent into consideration, a class of students can’t all be the best rock star who ever lived. The reality is that it’s very unlikely even one of them will even come close.
‘We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t.’
Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Now, you might be thinking, why the hell am I saying all this? Am I just trying to bum you out?
The reason I’m saying this is that maybe if more of us looked at what we have and what we really need and set ourselves achievable goals based on this knowledge, instead of looking over the horizon and dreaming about what we could have, maybe we’d all be a whole lot happier.
Because why encourage these kids to be famous rock stars, when they’d be just as happy (happier even) being musicians?
See, there’s plenty of room for musicians, even a whole class full of them.
But if each one of those students is trying to out do the other, in order to be the best there ever was, it kinda takes the fun out of it for everyone. Because it leaves very little room for error and creates an environment of self-doubt and anxiety due to the fact that everyone is aspiring for the same thing — those bloody stars that we keep being told to reach for.
No one’s allowed to experiment, to play, to get things wrong, to develop their craft, to find their voice — to be an individual.
And isn’t that half the fun of creativity?
When we’re too busy reaching for the stars, we forget to see what’s right in front of us
My point is that when we’re surrounded by images of successful people (whatever the hell that means) everywhere, it can make our own lives look a bit ‘meh’ by comparison.
We see influencers on social media, going on about their latest book being a bestseller, how they make a million billion pounds per year and bounce out of bed every morning at 5am looking radiant, all whilst eating a diet that consists of only kale and organic, free-range unicorn tears.
So is it any surprise that our own dreams, ambitions and achievements look a bit bloody shoddy by comparison?
So, I reckon we should all start giving ourselves a break.
I reckon we should stop falling for all this ‘reach for the stars’ bullshit and just stop reaching altogether. If we’re happy with what we have and where we are in life, then isn’t that enough?
As a great and wise philosopher once said:
‘Enough is as good as a feast’
Because you see, there’s a big difference between what we want and what we need.
I want lots of things, like a house with a swimming pool, and Tom Hardy to profess his undying love for me, but I actually need very little.
(Otherwise, in psychology, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would be known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Fast cars, Ginormous Mansions and Shiny Things.)
And somewhere along the way we started equating what we want with being happy.
I can only speak for myself, but when I look back, I’ve always been happiest when I’m living a simple life. It’s when I start doing what I think I should do and following the path I’m expected to follow that anxiety and self-doubt starts kicking in.
“It is no bad thing celebrating a simple life.”
Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring
It’s not that I don’t have ambition and I’m not competitive, it’s just the way I see it now is that the only competition I have is myself.
And you know what?
I think I’m doing alright.
‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.’
Because there’s always going to be more successful people than me, but as long as I’m getting better at my craft with every project I do, that’s fine by me.
In fact, it’s more than fine — it’s positively dandy.
Other copywriters aren’t my competition, and I don’t aspire to be like them, or even as successful as them. These are people to learn from, to get inspired by, but I don’t get hung up on trying to emulate them.
The only person I aspire to be is myself, and as long as I’m a better writer now than I was last year, then I consider myself a winner.
When I remember to focus on what I have, like a job I love, food in my belly, a roof over my head and people to share my life with, rather than what I want, I find something better than happiness — I find contentment.
Because when I focus on that, I realise that all the rest is just decoration.
Sure, it’s nice to have a fancy car and a flashy house and a super-important job title, but does any of that stuff make you happy?
For a little while probably, sure.
But in the long run?
My guess is that the shine of superficial things wears off pretty quickly.
I mean, I’m pretty sure no one on their deathbed has ever declared ‘I wish I bought more stuff’.
You’re buzzing because you finished the race, while your online mutuals are celebrating coming 1st place in a marathon
I try to stay away from politics in my professional life, so I’m not going to share my thoughts on how or why this attitude has become so ubiquitous in society because I don’t fancy becoming embroiled in a cyber war with a bunch of keyboard warriors who think they know better than me.
But I think that, somewhere along the way, we forgot how to just stop and smell the roses.
I have a great example of this — recently, I got a promotion to senior editor and was made up about it, until I saw that someone in my Twitter network had just got a job as an editor at a massive publishing house.
Now, I barely know this woman.
But suddenly my thing didn’t seem like such a big achievement, which is silly, because is my achievement any less because it’s with a less recognisable company? Does it change all the hard work and effort I’ve put in to get said promotion?
The whole thing is ridiculous, because logically I know there’s always someone out there who’s way more successful than me. But it feels different somehow when that someone is staring at your inferior face from out of your own damn computer screen.
And this what most of us have to put up with every day — nagging, insistent, relentless reminders that we could do better. Be more.
So, I suggest we all put two fingers up to the influencers and inspirational nobheads, stop trying to better ourselves and start being happy with the way we are.
As the great Frank Zappa once so wisely said:
‘You are what you is, and that’s all it is You is what you am, a cow don’t make ham’
Well said, Frank.
Technically speaking, a blog post is supposed to have a call to action, so here it is — my CTA is for you to make a promise, right now, to start going a little easier on yourself.
Of course, if you do insist on helping me out, you could always subscribe to my blog, or share this post with your friends. I’m happy either way.