A client of mine says they have a fear of being ordinary, I think it’s more than that because fears often are. I suppose I’m “lucky” because I never believed in normal or ordinary, comes from my psychology studies. They just aren’t realistic. But that’s me and people think I’m odd for fearing success but not failure, and that’s me.
What lies in a fear of being ordinary (koinophobia)?
Like many of these fears, it differs from person to person and the story they tell themselves. For my client it’s not disappointing their loved ones, not providing; for others it’s not living life to the full. (I’d love it if you commented with any I’ve missed)
So let’s go through some of them.
Not living life to the full
This was the most common reason I saw online. Many of them said it was about making the most of opportunities, creating opportunities, experiencing all that was on offer.
To be honest it sounds like FOMO. I get that. We don’t want to miss out. Sometimes we don’t like the idea that someone has something we believe we should have or want to have. Sometimes it’s a sense of entitlement.
The fear of not providing feeds the fear of being ordinary for my client. He believes that his family deserves more and so if he can not meet that he’s a failure. It means that if he doesn’t do this, he’s also ordinary because he’s not doing enough. It’s a vicious cycle.
Not being the best
This is another one I saw while doing some research. The quest to be the best means a fear of being ordinary as ordinary means settling for anything less than the best. It seems to be one of the chief motivators.
Disappointing those you care about
I don’t think anyone likes letting people down, especially those we care for and who count on us. This can be harder when you run your own business, are the main income earner, have dependants to care for. Being ordinary can be seen as letting them down, not being able to give them what you believe they deserve, not meeting what you believe their expectations are. It sounds a lot like Imposter Syndrome.
If I’m not the best, by default I’m ordinary and therefore I’m wasting my time.
Not living up to expectations
If you’re ordinary, you’re not meeting the expectations you or others have for you and your life.
Overcoming the fear of living an ordinary life
It’s tiring trying to be the best, there’s always someone likely to take it from you. It’s hard to keep tab on all the expectations put on you. You never really live to the full because there’s always something new. What is done for others never seems to be good enough or even enough.
So if you’re feel overwhelmed or that you just can’t keep up, do it all, be it all and you’re looking for ways to kick this fear of being ordinary – what can you do?
What’s the story you’re telling yourself
The very first place I start with clients looking to overcome their fears is to look at the story they are telling themselves. Why do they feel the need to be more? What have they been told or seen or believe about ordinary? How do they define ordinary?
It’s not always about childhood. Many of the stories I told myself originate in my early career. Other people feel the need to measure up against someone or some ideal or expectation. Why is that?
Is it realistic? Is the story true? What is the evidence so far?
These are all questions that need answering to unpack and recover from fear.
Tyranny of should
My psychologist once talked to me about the “tyranny of should”, I’ve also heard it referred to as “shoulding all over yourself”. Do you hear yourself say that you should do or be more? That you should work harder, even though you’re doing the best or most you can. That you should try harder. That you should provide more. That you should commit more to xyz.
My question to these is always: who says? Whose rules are they? Who really benefits and at what costs? What would happen if you did or didn’t achieve it all? How do you know for certain?
Should is an expectation and expectations are shady at best and rarely written in stone. When we adopt the expectations of others, we are living their rules and to a degree their life. But do they?
When a tyranny of should dictates our actions, it becomes an arduous shopping list of things, tasks, and chores to live up to. Some of which are unrealistic, do not serve us, and at worst do us more harm than good.
Will it be enough
Honestly, I don’t know. Will anything you do ever be enough? When we reach a goal, we set another, we never truly reach the top. (Incidentally, if we do reach the top we then have to work out how to stay there)
Scientist have proven that once our needs are met, more money doesn’t make us happier.
The other thing to consider is that there is often a new thing that catches our eye. So if we have all the apples we want and need and believe extraordinary, then there will be something else to take the place of the apples and our focus will shift. Then what?
Would it make you enough different
If you were to reach the top, live the life extraordinary, have and provide all you want and need; how different will you be?
Will doing all of these things stop you from being ordinary? Do they help you as a person? Do they change you? Do they help make you who you want to be?
Do you know what your core value is? Here’s a hint, when you’re back’s to the wall and you MUST take action, what do you dig in to or think of to get you moving and through it? That’s your core value.
Does not being ordinary support your core value?
It’s been proven that a daily practice of gratitude makes us happier. How often do you stop and be truly grateful for what you have and who you are? Or are you too busy chasing the next shiny thing to stop and pat yourself on the back for getting this far?
What’s really stopping you from doing what you truly want?
More often than not people aren’t afraid of being ordinary, they’re afraid of accepting themselves and being ok with who and where they are. They may want more for those they love but in the end they know that it will never be enough and won’t change who they are.
What’s the pay off from fearing an ordinary life? What’s it stopping you from doing or being or accepting about yourself?
Any fear can be difficult to overcome, the fear of being ordinary is no different. What they all need is for us to be able to objectively look at where it comes from, the facts that stack up against it, and then considering what benefit we get from keeping this fear and its control over our life. We all want more in one way or another, it’s just a matter of if we will let that control our lives.