You believe that an almighty other (god, your parents, yourself) has deemed you a special and purposed as an instigator for some social movement, cultural obsession or big change. If that is your destiny how could you not take yourself so seriously? Stepping into Nelson Mandela’s shoes is huge and you better do a good job or you may fail to make the change you were destined to make!
No one cares what you do. Your parents may give a blip of caring, but only as long as you aren’t upsetting the worldview they have created to keep themselves feeling safe and significant. Outside of your parents, the next closest person that might care is your significant other, and only because it’s either adding or subtracting resources from their coffers (time, money, attention, fun, etc). Your children will think what you do is amazing up to the age of eleven, wherein they will promptly morph into machines of uncaring and eye-rolling at every last word you say. Everyone else in the world is just living their lives independent of your grandeur. They aren’t likely to give you one iota of attention unless you give them something they can’t get better or cheaper elsewhere.
Everyone is watching you, therefore, you must be extra careful with every word you write and make sure you don’t come off as an amateur or else the pain and ignominy will last until time immemorial.
When I found out my daughter’s elementary school had a “no cross-dressing” rule for Halloween costumes, I went to help out at the party dressed as Jesus Christ. We live in an incredibly religious community so I feared that my costume would offend many people, in fact, I was counting on it. Guess what? No one said a word about my costume. If they had any thoughts, they kept it to themselves and nothing happened.
The only people watching you is your ex and they only do that at 2am on a Thursday night when they need to feel better about themselves. Other than that, you are invisible. Check your view counts. Check your stats. Single digits. There is nothing you can do to get the attention of onlookers that wouldn’t be immediately negated in favor of the onlooker getting a sandwich or cookie.
The beauty of knowing very few people are watching is that you can freely screw up and enjoy it.
If you don’t do this perfectly, you won’t do it at all. You have high standards, after all.
This attitude is called the “idealistic fallacy.” This is a common ailment affecting those in their late teens and early twenties (I know I had it pretty bad). The general premise is that you have a vision in your head of the ideal way to do things and will not allow it into the world unless it fits that ideal. This comes from the mistaken notion that you have any clue about what is ideal, which you don’t. Idealism is a moving target, one highly impossible to hit.
I love to talk about Tom Hanks when I encounter idealists. Have you ever seen Mazes and Monsters? It is one of Tom Hank’s first films and it is truly terrible. He went on to make a score of similar terrible movies like Joe Versus The Volcano and Turner And Hooch. If those are the works by which he will be judged at the end of his life then I pity him. But he also went on to make some truly stunning films such as Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump and Captain Phillips (check out the closing scene, it’s one of the finest pieces of acting I had ever encountered).
The antidote to taking yourself so seriously is, of course, to allow yourself to screw up a lot, be imperfect, let go of the accolades you think you have piled up. Realize that everyone, including the great ones, are flawed, weak and stupid in ways we don’t see. They will never be the ideal. You will never be the ideal.
There is no ideal.
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