I am not amazing. I tried to be, but – alas – I failed. And, amazingly, I survived it.
As a child of the New-Age movement, I recited all the affirmations that were going to re-jig my brain into believing that I was an amazing person if I just said them often enough. We baby boomers were assured by the facilitators of the workshops we flocked to that these would work. Change – and often wealth as well – for our not-good-enough selves was within our grasp for a handful of dollars and positive affirmations. The idea was that even if we didn’t believe the affirmations we were saying, by the end of three weeks we would, if we said them a certain number of times every day. Guaranteed. Three weeks was all it took to make or break a habit, and our not-good-enough selves appeared to fall into the category of a bad habit. It’s not a too terrible principle, though, because we know that if we tell ourselves something often enough, we believe it. Think of those world leaders, past and present, who not only believe their own BS, but manage to convince their people to believe it as well. Even if they don’t believe their own BS, they still know that if they say it often enough, it becomes the ‘truth’ whether it’s true, or not. It’s mental, but it happens – so I understand why it was supposed to work on me.
Then, once we were amazing, nothing would hold us back from achieving our full potential. Learning what our full potential was took us into another round of workshops and affirmations. We made lists of our attributes, we set goals, we wrote down exactly what we wanted, and we drew pictures. If we still didn’t get what our full potential was, there were more workshops to show us what was blocking us from that, where we could bare our souls and sob with the memory of past hurts. Some participants were really good at the sobbing bit, and got lots of group hugs. I’m not much of a crier, and didn’t manage to squeeze out many tears. I gave it my best shot, though, because crying showed that we were really getting this stuff. After numerous workshops I still wasn’t amazing, but I did have a healthy dose of confusion about why I wasn’t. Clearly, I was doing something wrong. I continued the journey of finding myself, believing that one day after enough searching, I would find the key that unlocked the amazing door. Looking back, I could have just saved my money, and gone on an amazing holiday.
To be fair, I believe that most of the workshop facilitators were genuinely trying to be helpful. A lot of we baby boomers were caught in the chasm between our parents’ world, and the new one we hadn’t quite created yet. Such a huge chasm had never existed before nor since, so in stepped the New-Age leaders to guide us through to the other side. It’s not rocket science – wherever people are confused and unhappy, there’s a market. In fact, it’s a marketer’s job to encourage people to be confused and unhappy, so they spend their money trying not to be confused and unhappy. The economy relies on confusion and unhappiness. Sure, there were some new-age charlatans around who twigged to this, but neither them nor the sincere ones were able to deliver the promised amazingness to me. I was not one of their success stories. I did learn one thing, though – high anxiety and low self-esteem don’t have a quick fix. Very annoying!
As I gradually stopped trying to fix myself with New-Age remedies, a funny thing happened – I stopped having as many expectations that I and my world had to be wonderful and amazing. I began allowing myself to just be me. Which is not to say that I got ‘cured’. Hell no. My wiring was as faulty as it was before, but its’ tightness eased bit by bit, and I even forgot about some of the things I was wired to be uptight about. I had a lightbulb moment when I understood that I didn’t have to be amazing, and my world didn’t have to be wonderful – because these things happen in their own way, regardless of how I feel about it. Sure, I still need to have skin in the game, but I don’t need to try and force amazing and wonderful to be a part of it. Amazing and wonderful are shifting sands – they come to us, move away, and then come back.
I don’t fully know if I really had an epiphany, or just got older. Who cares?
It was a relief not to have to be ‘on’ all the time; to not be afraid I would miss out if I wasn’t amazing; to not expect that everything had to be wonderful. Whether we got reeled in by the New-Age movement, or today’s relentless marketing pressure, the paradox about the harder we chase after something, often the more elusive it becomes, finally hit me between the eyes. Jeez, it was liberating. The discovery that amazingness isn’t a requirement for life after all, is a bit like how we let our bellies flop out after we’ve been holding them in – bliss. ,
I began to like myself and my life more the less I tried to be amazing, and the fewer expectations I had that things had to be wonderful. Outwardly, I’m still shite at some things, and good at others – and I will probably never crack the amazing code. But, at the end of the day, failing’s not all bad. Yet, every so often amazing will happen to us, and then it really is amazing.