The Fear of Mediocrity

I like creating because it fills an emptiness that used to be there. It’s so simple, and so lovely, that humans are like this. That we want to build with our hands. That we want to assemble and construct. That we derive joy from stacking pieces together, and stringing words together, and assembling colors on a page, and moving, and singing, and baking and knitting. Humans love to build little worlds around them.

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This quote is just a segment of a long post I read on Tumblr this morning about the fear of mediocrity. It was so cathartic to realize that other people struggle with their creativity in the same ways that I do. I identified so much with what this person wrote. I can remember criticizing my own art for as long as I’ve been creating it, even back when I was a child. Nothing I drew or made was ever “good enough” despite the fact that I had always been praised by the adults around me. My sister and I both always performed above the developmental level of other children at our age, especially when it came to drawing and art. But given that my sister is three years older than me, I still compared myself to her and felt that I wasn’t good by comparison.

I allowed this self-criticism to stifle my creative energy for many years of my life. That fear of failure can become crippling. It keeps you from trying new things. It holds you back from the hobbies you love, but aren’t “exceptional” at. I still remember reading something before that was talking about the way other cultures find it odd when people from America for instance say they “can’t sing.” What we mean to say is we don’t sing well enough to be comfortable doing so. But this idea is simply bizarre in other places in the world. Singing is just a natural part of being human. Just as all birds sing, all humans are capable of song as well. So why not allow ourselves to? The same can be said for dancing, writing, drawing, building, etc. All of these creative endeavors are a natural part of human existence. It is terribly sad that the vast majority of us seem to cut ourselves off from our own creative drives out of shame or fear.

If I only had a nickel for every time someone told me that they can’t do yoga because they aren’t flexible. It truly breaks my heart to hear that. Yoga isn’t about doing fancy, impressive poses or having a perfect, flawless body. Yoga is a spiritual act of self-love. Yoga is about presence and healing and showing up for yourself as you are. Yoga is a beautiful journey inward, a dance with your own soul. I’m tearing up right now just imagining how many people have denied themselves the right to practice yoga because of how they look or the real/perceived limitations of their bodies. I was nearly one of those people myself.

I can only imagine that this strange and sad phenomenon has gotten worse with the advent of the internet. It has certainly made me feel worse about my own creations. Before the internet, I may have seen incredible anime or animal drawings in books or something, but even though these images were far out of my league, it never bothered me on a personal level. The people who contributed to these books were much older than me, I could tell myself. They are professionals. It is their job to draw. There is no need to compare myself to them. However, now with Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, DeviantArt, Pinterest, etc. we are able to see the best of the best from people around the globe that aren’t necessarily older than us, or professional artists. For some reason this is much harder to cope with.

DeviantArt particularly was a place I used to love to visit. At first I was inspired. How incredible it was to see the vast amount of amazing artwork regular people like me were creating and sharing with the world! But soon it became more about how far away my skills were from theirs. I started to feel that I would never be able to create anything as good, so I should just stop all together. It made it hard to find the fun in drawing anymore.

Even though for the past year I’ve been working to incorporate creativity into my everyday life again, I still struggle with this fear of mediocrity. I constantly have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter at all how good my art is compared to other people. It doesn’t even matter if what I drew yesterday is better than what I’ll draw today or tomorrow. It is the act of creation itself that matters. It is the beauty of making something where there was once nothing at all. That alone is something to marvel at, something to be so grateful for being able to do. Everything else is just a distraction, a misdirection, insignificant chatter of the mind.

I don’t write these posts to be the best writer in the world, or even a good writer, to be honest. I do it because I am a writer. I like to write. It brings me joy. And that’s enough. I don’t draw to compete with anyone else, even the person I was the day before. I don’t do it to make money or to prove something to anyone else or myself. I do it because I am human. I do it to manifest my unique, miraculous consciousness into the world. Because we are all here to create, no matter our skill level or medium. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you are not good enough, especially yourself.

Relationship Standards

I was watching an advice show where someone wrote in to ask about how not to bring old relationship baggage into a new relationship. This person was feeling anxious about similarities in behavior between her past and present partner and wanted a way to ease her mind and stop worrying about being dumped by her new partner. I don’t know what I expected to hear, but I was a little disappointed that this person’s situation wasn’t more comparable to my own. Because I was hoping to get some advice or insight for myself.

My problem is almost the exact opposite. I can’t seem to find anyone that is similar enough to my old partner. I know I shouldn’t be comparing them to him in the first place, but I can’t help myself. Yet there are so many factors I have to consider while I’m doing so that I wonder if it’s really the other person falling short or me. Now, I’m trying to be fair here. I don’t expect them to be perfect, or a carbon copy of someone from my past. I am just looking for that same sense of connection.

On paper, it probably wouldn’t look like there was anything too remarkable about my last relationship. But there was this ineffable vibe that this person gave me. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s not just that person either. My best friend is one of those people. My coworkers seem to be of that kind as well. I even randomly met someone the other day who has been in my mind since then. Just from that brief conversation I could tell they were potentially one of these special people as well. I’ll try my best to explain what exactly this quality is I am searching for in others.

It feels like when most people look at you, they aren’t really looking at you. They are seeing you distorted through all of their expectations and assumptions. They are seeing the person they want you to be. When you speak to these people you get the sense that they didn’t really take the time to hear you. These special people of mine are different. They really see me. And somehow they accept me anyway, love me anyway. What could be more beautiful?

Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t consider myself a great listener or someone who is open to letting people be whoever they are and accepting that. I don’t know if the people in my life that are like that with me are even like that with everyone. Perhaps there are just invisible threads that connect some of us in that special way. But even though I’m not always open and loving, something about being seen lets me be. It is a vulnerable, thrilling place to be. It makes me feel truly alive again to be near these types of people.

The problem is there don’t seem to be very many of these people. I’ve only met a handful my entire life. When I start talking to someone new, I really try to give them a fair chance. Even though I can usually tell if someone has that vibe or not right away. Meeting through the internet makes it kind of hard to be sure. These people are always conversationalists though. They are as good at talking as they are at listening. They ask lots of good questions and have interesting opinions and perspective on things.

It is quite emotionally exhausting to sift through the population trying to find these people. I feel guilty every time I have to break things off with someone for seemingly no reason. Most of the people I’ve met were perfectly fine, but they just weren’t right. I wasn’t feeling that connection. They weren’t really seeing me.

This is where I start to doubt myself though. Is this all in my head? Am I projecting all of this onto the people around me? Am I just looking for excuses to keep carrying this torch for someone who couldn’t care less about me now? Is this some kind of complex defense mechanism to keep people away?

Occasionally I’ll push forward with a new relationship long past when I’ve basically decided it isn’t going to work for me. Just to see if the person just needs more of a chance, if they’ll grow on me. I always end up just feeling guilty in the end for leading them on and wasting both of our time. I’m not someone who would ever “settle.” That has never been an option for me. I much prefer being on my own to being with someone I don’t absolutely adore. I guess I’ll just keep looking and trusting this one sliver of intuition that still speaks to me.

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