How Average Beats The Gremlin

Photo by Leonora (Ellie) Enking via Flickr

 

Last week I logged in to my Red Tricycle account and much to my surprise, the UPV’s (Unique Page Views) of my best-read article had gone up significantly. At one point it was over 6200. Wow, this made me feel like I am actually a real writer. People want to read what I’ve written. I have something good to say.
Then, suddenly it went down to 290 UPV’s. As it turned out, there was a bug in the system and after it was fixed I had 290. I tried really hard not to be disappointed about it, but the truth: I was. Very much.

My Inner Gremlin (a.k.a. Ego) left no means untouched to burn me down to the ground. What was I thinking? Did I really think people want to read what I write? Well, you get the picture. My problem is that The Gremlin is not only obnoxiously mean and persistent, but also very loud and knows exactly when and where I’m most vulnerable.

But I decided not to give in to The Gremlin. After a moment (or two, three), I pulled myself together as much as I possibly could. I believe I do have something to say. It isn’t about that ugly little Gremlin that needs others to approve of it, it’s about helping myself and others in our struggle through life. Reminding myself that if it helps just one person, it’s worth it. The only way to beat The Gremlin is to be more persistent than it. I can do that. Yes, I may need a moment or two to catch my breath and lick my wounds, but I will get back up again.

Living in a world that values superficial things like being famous, rich, skinny, pretty etc. makes The Gremlin believe that by reaching those things it will find love and acceptance. No, The Gremlin isn’t very smart. Even if I did make it to all its goals, The Gremlin still wouldn’t be happy. It needs constant praise and admiration from others to be content. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.
And I know I’m not the only one that is being terrorized by a Gremlin. Memes like “I’m not here to be average, I’m here to be awesome” are popping up everywhere.

But, what is wrong with average? After all, average is just most common. And…if everyone is special, that means it is most common and therefore special is no longer special, but just… average. In which case you are still awesome… just like the rest. Is that so bad? Wouldn’t it be great if we all felt awesome and be ok with others feeling the same?
Isn’t that how it is? Isn’t everyone special in their own way? Yes, it’s cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason. Aren’t the people you love so much more special than a random talented person? No matter how great they are, at the end of the day it’s your loved ones that matter.
Who defines “special” anyway? What is awesome to one person, may not mean anything to another. And no matter how much you excel and how special you are, there will always be someone to disagree.

Self-esteem seems like a good tool to beat The Gremlin, right? But the thing with self-esteem is, it only goes so far. It depends on whether things go well; when one can feel better than others. Study shows that when things don’t work out as they “should”, the self-esteem diminishes and/or others are being blamed for poor judgment. Also, those people tend to get angry or defensive when they feel their ego is being threatened (yep, that’s me).
Why? Because self-esteem is based on judgement. Success means you’re good, failure means you’re bad. And honestly, how often do you beat yourself up not being good enough? It has its roots in not feeling ok with who you are and therefore you need to compare yourself with others and be better.

According to Kristin Neff the alternative is self-compassion. Compassion literally means to suffer with (derived from Latin: com means with and pati means suffer). Self-compassion is about not judging yourself, but being kind to yourself and accepting that you’re suffering instead of beating yourself up because you failed. It’s about accepting success and failure as part of life, something that happens to everyone. People who do this are better able to accept imperfections and to handle rejections because they don’t take it too personal.
As Kristin Neff says: “self-compassion is about shared humanity- it’s all about being average. It’s about being a human: We have strengths and beautiful qualities, and we have weaknesses; we succeed, we fail and it’s all part of this shared human condition.

You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you don’t know how to embrace yourself for who you are, it will never be enough. You will never be enough, what you do will never be enough, what you have will never be enough. When we accept failure is part of being human, we allow ourselves to be who we are instead of striving for acceptance by others.
Of course, if you are good, by all means enjoy it, just realize you would be worth as much without it.

Yes, it’s one of those things that is easier said than done. But challenge makes us grow. There are moments that I feel I can never beat The Gremlin. I allow myself a moment to feel and acknowledge the pain, it’s there, if I deny it, it will only grow. Then, I remind myself that I can only beat it by being more persistent than The Gremlin. That I’m only human, that I can learn from failure, that I have a lot of things to be grateful for and that doing everything to be the best me is as awesome as one can be. I can beat The Gremlin.