Sometime I wonder about myself. Why do I suffer so much for that pot of gold I imagine I will get when I succeed?
It’s not just me. Our society has become a slave to excellence.
We don’t simply want to succeed at a test, we want to crush it! It’s not enough to be mediocre, we have to be a runaway success.
To go viral, to spectacularly launch, to hit the ground running, success at the outset.
It’s not enough to be good looking now you have to be stunning. Success at school is not enough now you have to have straight A grades across the board.
I’m just as caught up by this idea as anyone. We’ve become obsessed with being above average in everything we do.
If we’re not then somehow we have failed at life. It’s the modern society we live in.
The New Rat Race
When did all this happen!!? When did we become so invested in being the best?
When was modestly successful no longer enough?
I’m not talking about success in terms of material or monetary wealth, or a position in a company. But with the new world order we are now chasing after fame and followers, as well as aptitudes and skills.
The rat race was and still is a metaphor to describe the desperate desire to become successful.
But the traditional image of suited office workers, the long commute, chasing promotions, and working long hours is fading.
Now it’s having an online presence ( Like youtube celebrity like PewDiePie, or a podcaster, a blogger. ), an internet business and location independent living (A global Nomad). We thought this new economy would be amazing. We could work from home or a tropical beach.
A post by the Guardian illustrates this. On Instagram it’s no longer enough to post up images of the food you eat.
Now you’re being judged on what you post up. So you now have to demonstrate that you’re eating amazing foods healthy foods. The standards are rising.
Take the examples of the woman who accidentally killed her boyfriend on youtube, or the Youtuber who poisoned herself by mistakenly eating agave. All for success, fame, and recognition.
A driving factor is the internet
Looking on Facebook we can see our friends holidays to the tropics, the windsurfing lessons, the new car and the designer labels.
It leaves us feeling envious.
So we chase, and we keep chasing, trying to keep up with anyone we see in the internet.
Celebrity culture is the same. It’s why we follow those in vogue, models, singers, or just people who are famous for being famous.
Celebrity is diversifying. There are so many platforms and ways to get successful, famous that were are now bombarded with them. Success can be found through a myriad of ways just as those who are successful.
Thanks to the internet success has never been so varied, so close, and yet so far away.
This desire to get better and better leaves us feeling ashamed when we don’t, guilty when we mess up, and afraid to even try. Working ourselves endlessly for that time in our lives when we can sit back, relax and enjoy the success we have.
But we miss out on being alive because our mind is always focused on the next rung on the ladder upwards.
The standards of success are now so high most of us will never reach it. Worse still all this effort in raising standard means even the level of average has increased.
The real culprit is social media and the internet. We can now compare ourselves to hundred if not thousands of other people, some we know well, most we don’t. Comparing ourselves on wealth, beauty, status, writing skills, artistic acumen, cooking ability even dietary habits and a hundred other ways.
This is chasing status. It’s no longer enough to do average, now we have to be amazing.
Even ideas like frugality and minimalism can bizarrely become objects of competition. (Yes, even doing better by having less can be a symbol of status.)
We seem to turn everything into a competitive sport. Even life itself has become a competition, where everybody is involved.
The Grass is Greener
The reason why is because although human nature hasn’t changed the world has. Our working habits reflect our own desires and technologie magnifies them.
It’s always something we don’t have, and our economy is set up to delivers on our desires, both good and sell destructive. Through the products and services offered and yes even down the goals were are supposed to aim for.
The Trap of Validation
We see work and success as a way of validating our own existence. Because we have bought into the values of our society which say that worldly success is what proves your worth. We didn’t have a choice, we’re taught how to be a person by the people around us. We imbibe the values of our society and culture.
Chasing after status, wealth, success, has long been a problem in the westernised world. But now with the internet and social media it’s gone up a level. It’s our fear of insignificance that we want more followers, more income, more possessions, more of everything. Cramming life with things to prove our life was meaningful and successful.
The Trap of Comparison
The other problem is our minds seek answers from the outside. We compare ourselves to others. We want to be be told or shown what is the right way to live.
In this way our increased awareness of other people’s lives through the internet, combined with our psychology to look towards others for guidance has created the perfect storm of striving.
We are not good enough until we are as successful as the people we know and the people we see in the media or online.
This is how the modern age creates anxiety and depression.
What can we do?
You can’t eliminate desire, so don’t’ even try. You will always want for something, but don’t let it get the better of you. Instead moderate your expectations and ambitions. Some things you will never be able to achieve or obtain. Remind yourself of what you already have. Learn to value the simple things and enjoy them more.
Look to answers from within. Stop chasing others and ask yourself what you want from life. What matters to you, what do you want your life to be like before you die. What does success look like to you? Be wary of the internet and social media. What problem do you want to fix, how do you want to help others?
Focus on the process. Yes chase and strive, but see that it is the struggle that’s important.. The work can be difficult but you can still look back afterwards and realise you did have fun doing it. Death is the end result but in learning how to enjoy the time to have that’s important.
Learn to balance your life better. Work a little less. Spend more time of those activities that help you unwind and have fun. We can spend too much time working, and then one day look back with regret.
Our desire to be noticed, for meaning has left so many of us desperate for success, for some way to prove to others and to ourselves that we have lived a good life. Today it’s success online that has become the desire for most of us.
It’s left us overworked and out of touch with what we want that the happiness we seek seems further away than ever.
Success and being amazing has become like the punishment of Tantalus. The mythical Greek hero condemned to suffer an eternity of torment in Hades by standing in a pool of water below a low hanging fruit tree. When he would reach for the fruit the branches would rise from his grasp. Whenever he dipped to drink the water it would recede.
It’s temptation without fulfillment. A metaphor for desires that never cease and source of the word Tantalise.
Tantalus’ deprivation was his punishment, our deprivation is never to be without wants and desires, never satisfied with life.
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Image Credit : orla / 123RF Stock Photo