Can we learn to be happy with being exceptional at being ourselves? I ask this with an interest in why feeling the need to be the best at everything is a trait so many of us, myself included, have? Whether it’s being exceptionally pretty, wealthy, successful, healthy, fit or clever. Why do we strive for building empires, doing all we possibly can whilst it almost breaks us, and wanting to dominate the industries we work in? When actually, the one thing that we, each of us, are already exceptional at is being ourselves. No one else can do it but us. No one. So instead of striving for being exceptional in all areas of our lives, can we find peace in being average at most things and being exceptional at being us? Can we change the thing we want to be better at and instead of feeling insignificant at not being exceptional at something, can we focus on being better at being average as that is more than okay and a brilliant thing. Can we celebrate being exceptionally average? How about we stop striving for exceptional beauty, fame, money, physic, etc and instead start striving for happiness being in the now and having a greater understanding of what makes us happy. Imagine if we stopped buying into striving for excellence and starting striving for happiness in ourselves and to provide happiness for others?
As I mature into my late 30’s I feel the pressure of midlife baring down on me - what should I have achieved by now? Why have I not done more? Am I were I’m meant to be? What’s next? Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that I’m going to buy a sports car and change my image to fulfil the stereotype of midlife crisis, but I have been worrying that I’ve not achieved enough. I’ve always been a driven person. Whether it’s academically, professionally, and even physically. I’ve gone as far as I can in education before doing a PHD (which is also on the cards, FYI). I was a Director of the largest youth arts organisation in the South West of England by the age of 30. I’ve run multiple half marathons and one full marathon. I’ve climbed mountains and travelled the world. I own a house and have a wonderful family of three (me, my partner and our dog). I spent most of my twenties setting myself challenges, having the ‘next’ thing in my sights that I worked towards achieving, and I achieved all of them. I figured out who I was and I settled into my career, my relationship and being me. I’ve done all of this, yet I still find myself feeling agitated about not having done or been enough and I’m still striving for something more. Why can’t I be happy and content with what I have done and use it as motivation to do more, rather than feeling like what I have done hasn't been ‘exceptional’ enough?
In considering this, I’ve started to be mindful of when and how I feel like this. It’s when I find out about what other people have done or achieved. Whether I know them or not. It’s usually someone of a similar age to me, or similar career, and I can’t help but compare. I end up feeling a bit inferior and forget all of my achievements. Annoyingly, it’s also when I achieve something and then compare it to someone or something else. Take health and fittest for example: at the moment I am training every day of the week to complete a virtual challenge and in preparation for a half marathon next Spring. I was up at 6am today to be in the gym training with my PT until 8am. I looked up at one point and caught myself in the mirror and felt disheartened that I wasn’t fit enough, strong enough or slim enough. Seriously, when will enough be enough!? If only I could rewire my brain to not see what I haven’t done, or who I’m not, but the opposite?
I don’t know about you, but I notice that I spend a lot of time striving for excellence in areas of my life which I will never be exceptional at. I hate to break it to myself, but I will never be an olympian, a super-model, a millionaire, a world leader or the saviour of the universe. If I stopped spending time beating myself up on not being more, I would have so much more time in being present and being content. I might never be those things, I might never have a flat stomach or earn a three figure salary, so why am I wasting my time and energy in being hard on myself for not having that or being those things. Instead, I could use my time in celebrating what I have got and who I am. My legs may be a different shape and size to others, but I tell you what, they’ve taken me one hell of a distance and allowed me to see some of the most beautiful things in the world. They are strong! I may not have the biggest house or most successful business, but I I choose to work in a sector that is super fulfilling and helps to change people's lives for the better. What I am exceptional at, is being me - I’m sensitive, I’m kind, I do all I can for others, and like to think I’m empathic. Those things are pretty bloody cool and worth feeling proud about. It's really hard to think about the traits we have that we like. Who else struggles answering the question "what are your strengths?". But ask one of your friends to tell you what they appreciate about you and what they think your strengths are and you'll start to see what others see that's exceptional about you too.
If like me, you feel torn by wanting to be more and do more, why don’t we stop striving for things and people, and start investing in the one thing that we’re already exceptional at - ourselves! Let’s spend less time worrying about what we’ve not done and celebrate what we have done. What a difference it would make to us to feel satisfied and content enough so that when the next challenge comes we feel inspired by it and with the resilience to take it on. Let’s be a peace with being average and start realise that our lives are in actual fact, a lot closer to what we’re trying to achieve than we’re aware of. Change that filter on your life and see it from someone else perceptive - you’re pretty bloody amazing and influential!
Where does this leave me and my somewhat-midlife crisis? Well, let’s face it, it’s hard to change behaviour overnight. I know I will feel these things again and I will keep striving to be better and do more. But, I am going to set my challenges and things I want to achieve a little closer to home. Instead of doing more, I’m going to strive to be more, more of me. I’m going to hone in the exceptional thing that being 'Emily Bull' is.
Things I’m going to strive to be even more exceptional at:
So, will you join me and step away from the harmful situation we cause ourselves in feeling like we’re not enough, and instead be more us? Change those lists and dreams of ‘must haves’ and instead focus on being a better person. A good friend of mine once said, ‘better never stops’. He was right. Being the better you never stops, and you don’t need things to do that or be that. That is all in our power and no one else can do it or be it for us.
On that note, I’m signing off as an average runner, an average creative producer, an average business women, but as an exceptional Emily Bull.
Until next time…..