It was a rainy, stormy weekend here in the South West. We found ourselves cooped up inside a lot, by the fire, reading books and drinking tea – which is a beautiful way to spend time. All that time sitting and warming and reading gives me lots of time to think.
I have always spent a lot of time thinking about what success means to me, it’s something that is in our face constantly in the media, it’s something that I was worried about a lot when I was a teenager and a young adult. I worried so much about not succeeding that I wasn’t able to actually live in the moment and enjoy amazing learning opportunities that were given to me because I was terrified of failure. And I did fail. Over and over and over again. And it almost destroyed me… and looking back on it now I see how young and how fragile and how silly I was to spend so much time worrying what other people would think of me if I fell – when really, they weren’t even watching me anyway.
We are raised in a culture that holds us up and encourages us to look forward, to model ourselves on people who are held up on a pedestal… as a culture we obsess over those who are rich and those who are famous, hanging on their every word, criticising their every action, copying their style – wanting to mirror their success onto ourselves.
We seem to have this idea that we have to do huge, amazing and very public things to prove that we are successful. If nothing else social media is often proof of this. People often talk about narcissism and self obsession when they are making social commentary on the choices that people make about intimacy and privacy and their use of social media… but I don’t think it’s the case. I think it’s more of a reflection of the culture we live in than the individual themselves. A modern culture that comes with it an enormous pressure to live an extraordinary life. A mainstream culture that is nothing less than obsessed by that which is extraordinary. The perfectly styled home. The perfectly styled meal. The perfectly happy family. The perfectly curated life. The best holidays. The best friends. The most popular. The most likes. The most read. The most public. Our children the most brilliant. And we must achieve it younger. Faster. Richer.
Everything to the extreme.
Everything is a race to an imaginary finish line that will never really come.
Now, I’m not saying we should all just sit on our haunches and do nothing. I remember my english professor telling me once in Uni that just because I could write – that was no reason to just sit on my laurels. What I’m saying is that perhaps this obsession with celebrities and magazine living and success and drive and curated living is actually blinding us to the beauty that is the most ordinary.
When we spend so much time looking up at those we want to be – do we forget to look at those who are right in front of us? There is nothing wrong with dreaming and striving to be the best that we can be – but is it stopping us from being where we are right now?
We live in a world fraught with an imaginary ‘lack.’ Where we don’t have enough, we aren’t pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, famous enough, popular enough, stylish enough, strong enough, worthy enough… good enough.
But we are all of these things. I am enough. You are enough. When we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, work that satisfies us, people who love us and who we love… isn’t that enough?
There is such a thing a as a full, interesting and ordinary life. When the definition of our success is based not on what we own or the public accolades we have been awarded – but instead on the nature of our relationships, on our kindness, on living our very own truth… whatever that may be.
“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” – David McCullough Jr.
Tasting good food, growing deep and compassionate friendships, loving fully, laughing loudly, crying deeply, witnessing ourselves and each other, falling without the fear of failure, existing without shame: isn’t it the most ordinary of things that are the most beautiful?