The Courage to be Ordinary

You read that right, the courage to be ordinary. Not the strongest, fastest, smartest, prettiest, or best. Ordinary and good enough.

A few months ago I listened to a Tim Ferris podcast interviewing Brené Brown. She exclaimed that people relate to her because she is not afraid to be ordinary. After agreeing with Tim that she is far from ordinary, my perfectionistic brain went into overdrive. What would life be like if we stopped trying to be everything to everyone? Or if we looked at ourselves and said, “I am enough.” If we considered giving up on perfection? If we had the guts to embrace being ordinary? Would we be okay if we lived life on our terms and not by following a nagging voice in our head that tells us how inadequate we are on a daily basis? There were two distinct outcomes in my mind from these thoughts, one was peace. The other was, “What? You cannot do that, you will be a lazy person who does nothing! Now go do something useful.” Guess which one my critical voice was.

I learned recently that 90% of the population has a core belief of “I am not good enough.” Ninety percent, let that sink in. This is likely on a continuum of how it effects most of us but that still means there are a lot of incredible people walking around with a belief that they are not doing enough, attractive enough, being enough. This thought may evoke some level of sadness in you because it means you and the ones you care about most give in to negative ideas about who they are constantly.

This month’s Fix theme is Shift. The idea prompted me to think about goal setting or life improvements in a ‘be more’ frame of mind. Shifting to an idea of being enough makes sense in life right now too. Overcoming the critical voice in our mind is no easy feat and I will not pretend to have a quick fix. However, there are small steps that we can take to turn the volume down on that voice.

Step one involves observing our negative thoughts. Examples include analyzing a conversation long after it is over about what you said or what the other person might think of you, apologizing profusely if someone has to wait for you on a trail, or filling the blank on statements like, “I am such a…” Once we start paying attention to these thoughts, we take away some of their power simply by being aware.

Step two involves challenging these thoughts. How accurate are they? Would I believe the thought about a friend if they said it me about themselves? How is this thought actually helping me right now? Finally, we can learn to talk back to that voice. We can tell it to back off or that it is not helpful right now or that we will not blindly believe it.

Embracing the idea of ordinary does not mean you will not achieve your life goals or engage in activities that you are passionate about. You can still run a marathon, open a business, or get an education. Being enough does not mean giving up, it just means allowing ourselves to be kind as we do. Think of it this way, would you ever motivate your loved one with the unkind words you find in your own mind? If you did, would it work?

Give self-compassion a try, you just might find that ordinary or enough is actually pretty extraordinary.