The F-Word

My dad was talking to me this morning about an interview he heard on CBC radio. Something about “Eureka!” moments and how they don’t actually exist.

The guy being interviewed explained that people who make major discoveries (scientific, medical, etc.) and claim to have a  aha-moment… actually don’t. Apparently, there are no “random” moments of genius. Apparently, breakthrough discoveries generally tend to be the result of hard work.

Ya don’t say.

It wasn’t surprising to me that successful people tend to be hard workers, but it did get me thinking how often I’ve heard people say they owe their success to something trivial, instead of hard work. They’ll say “Oh, it was just an idea I had one day while I was in the shower” or “it was just natural to me” or “it was total luck”. Or all those Hollywood celebs with perfect bodies who say they don’t diet or work out. Come on.

Claiming success was just “luck” is a thing, you guys. People do it all the time. They negate having worked hard and claim their accomplishment was “easy”.

But why do they do this? Why do people who accomplish great things credit accomplishment to a random moment of genius? It’s as though they wanted you to think there they didn’t even try.

Well, here’s my theory.

If you tried hard– if you worked hard at something– it insinuates that you didn’t succeed right off the bat.

Now, if you didn’t succeed on the first try, what does that mean? The F-word ladies and gents. A word our society/generation seems to be terrified of.

FAILURE.

If someone worked super hard for years at something, they inevitably failed a bunch of times before that. Success is usually the result of many failures. So admitting that you tried hard is kind of admitting you failed, too.

But people don’t want you to know about their failures. After all, failure is a dirty word, right? Many are ashamed of admitting they failed. They’re embarrassed. They think it somehow reflects poorly on them as a person.

 

I’m not sure why that is exactly, but I do feel that the problem is exacerbated by social media, which often portrays people in a perfect light. It doesn’t help that coffee breaks have morphed into Instagram breaks. We’re always on our phones and these images are shoved into our faces all day long.

But there’s a nuance. Society’s fear of failure isn’t a fear of failing, per se. If it were only failure that people were afraid of, no one would try anything.

The nuance is that it’s a fear of other people knowing we failed. This is because we have the perpetual impression that everybody is doing so great and no one is failing at anything (because they hide their failures). It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We hide our failures from others because others hide their failures from us.

The fear of being known as a failure also ties into what drives people today. See, there’s a brand of philosophy which purports that it is the fear of death that drives drives humanity to accomplish great things. In essence, people do amazing things to be remembered via legacy.

I sort of disagree with that. See, for our generation (millennial represent *fist bump*), I think a lot of us are currently driven by a fear of others thinking we are failures.

So many girls I know will do things for the sole purpose of getting the perfect photo to post on social media. “That’s not why I do it!”, you say.

Well, maybe it’s so engrained that you’re unaware you do this. For the girls I know, rather than truly absorbing an amazing experience, it will come down to how good of a photo she can get.

Then, she’ll Instagram it and the quality of the experience will depend on how many “likes” she gets. If the photo doesn’t get many “likes”, the experience will be remembered as less enjoyable in her mind. If the photo gets a bunch of “likes”, then the experience is remembered as great and she will seek out similar experience to get similar photos. It’s only as good as the world thinks it’s good.

All of a sudden, we’re changing the kind of experiences we “want”. Rather than focusing on creating a life we truly love, we put all our energy into creating a life that society thinks is fabulous and will insta-drool over as they scroll through our feed. It’s a game of make-believe: i.e. making people believe everything is great, wonderful and easy. Because if they all believe it’s great and easy, than we can be finally be happy, right?

Another example of this mentality is #FOMO. If you’ve been living under a rock, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out” and it’s a hashtag-turned-saying used to define the feeling you get when you’re sitting at home in your PJs watching Snapchat or Instagram stories of people having an amazing time. It’s the feeling you get when, suddenly, your night at home in your PJs doesn’t seem so great. Next, you start comparing your seemingly mundane life to a stranger’s social media story. And so it snowballs: you start questioning what’s wrong with you, why you don’thave a million friends, and why you don’t have tons of money and cool parties to go to; why your body isn’t perfect (after all, looks so easy to maintain) or why you’re bedroom room doesn’t look like it’s out of a Martha Stewart magazine.

Welcome to the rabbit hole of social media despair, where it’s just you and everything you feel like you lack (do you feel the f-word coming? I think so we do).

FAILURE.

There it is. Does any of this feel relatable?

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Here’s a selfie of me side-glancing at you RN because I know you relate.

You know what they say, the first step is admitting the problem. It’s important to recognize this unhealthy thinking pattern. I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that I’ve been down the rabbit hole of social media despair a few times and it has contributed to my unhappiness.

If you need an concrete example of the rabbit hole, read the box. If not, skip below to solutions.

Exhibit A:  This morning, I was half asleep and brushing my teeth, getting ready for a big day of not much and I happened upon one of my favourite bloggers’ Instagram story. She and her hubby arrived in Greece this morning and were having breakfast at a 17-star hotel on the beach. It looked sunny, the water was sparkling, they were wearing expensive clothes and the food looked amazing. And, naturally, I thought: “Hey, why aren’t I sitting on a Grecian beach with some delicious coffee working… at my tan?”

Ya know?

But then my brain went “woah minute mon amie”.

If I were actually in Greece right now, I probably wouldn’t have great cell service. Also, to get to this hotel, I probably would have had to take a bunch a crappy buses with no a/c. Or worse, a boat on the choppy high seas (I tend to get V seasick).

I would have had to struggle to order something delicious in a language I don’t speak. And there’s no way they could beat my favourite brunch restaurant in Ottawa (order the 6-shooter hash). If I were in Greece right now, it would be 10am and I’d already be sweating cause it’s summer and I’m in the freakin’ mediterranean.

In reality, I was sitting on my bed, with perfect wifi, in a lovely, clean house, about to get driven by my wonderful boyfriend to my favourite brunch place. Oh, and I’m in Canada, where I have democracy and healthcare.

And yet, one little Instagram-story and I’d been wishing I was an American living out of a suitcase in Europe. I somehow automatically convinced myself that her situation was somehow bette than mine.

Is it though? Um… well, she’s American and her country is currently being run by a cheeto, so I’d say nah.

Solutions

So here’s my real talk about fixing this issue. It’s called perspective. To simplify it, I’ll divide my perspective argument into 2 main points:

1. Prioritize

Buckle up because a major truth bomb is about to hit.

We all have 24 hours in a day.

That’s right, you have the same hours in a day as the Queen, Beyoncé and the hobo down the street.

Now, many people who achieve great things put most of those hours toward the thing they want to achieve. See, you can have anything you want. Anything. It’s just that you have to choose how many hours in your day you’re willing to spend on that thing, regardless of failure. You have to determine what your priorities are.

*clears throat*

For example, you can have the perfect body. But there’s a catch, of course. You have to prioritize it. You may need to wake up at 5am to workout for 2 hours everyday before work. Alternatively, you can workout for 2 hours after work every night. Since I assume you have a day job, you’ll  most likely need to prioritize workouts over time with friends or your significant other. You’ll also have to take a lot of time to pre-plan your meals and do groceries several times a week because fresh produce doesn’t last that long. Also, there will be a lot of dishes because you’re gonna be mostly eating at home. Finally, forget about restaurants/bars/coffee shops because you can’t order anything there any and you should probably be at the gym.

So, rethinking your “goal” of having a perfect body?  Or maybe you’re thinking, “no way Cat, you’re being too extreme. It does not take that much work for a good body”. Aha, well, note that I didn’t say lose 2 pounds or get an average body. I said a perfect body. You may not need to work that hard for an average body, but tell me, when you’re scrolling through the profile of a VS Angel, does it make you crave a nice average body type or does it make you want a perfect body?

Thought so.

2. Accept the mundanity

Everybody on the planet does mundane things every single day. Life is not an episode of [insert favourite sitcom here].  The rich and the beautiful do mundane things every day. Happy people also do mundane things every day.

Sometimes, life can be a little mundane. We need to accept this. It doesn’t mean we’re failures, it just means we’re human.

There is so much content on the internet and in the media that only the truly amazing rises to the top. Realize that we only see the best of the best, the crème de la crème.  Best is, by definition, an extreme. Not the norm.

Step 1: If you can accept that life can be a little mundane at times you can free yourself from thinking you’re a failure for staying in on a Friday night.

Step 2: Now, if you can accept that really successful people have all failed a ton of times, maybe you can accept that not only is failure normal, but it is an inevitable part of success. It can fuel success.

If you have never failed at anything, ask yourself whether you’ve accomplished anything?

With that, I’m out. Remember to think twice about these points as your scrolling through your feed today. If you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments. And BTW, the whole idea behind this post just kinda came to me one day as I was in the shower. Weird huh?!

3 thoughts on “The F-Word

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