Mediocrity and fit for purpose

Thursday, October 26, 2017 Permalink

One of the many online pieces I’ve bookmarked in the past year or so is one about mediocrity in Elephant Journal: Why Perfectionists Should Pursue Mediocrity. And I know I’ve written about this before, referencing Mark Manson’s In Defense of Being Average.

Both pieces kinda boil down to the suggestion that lowering our aspirations or goals, lowers our expectations (of our own achievements), meaning we’ll be happier with ourselves and our lives. Apparently.

Of course that only works if most of us believe there’s something wrong with aspiring to mediocrity. The assumption – of course – being that we should all want more; that we should all aspire to perfection. Or – at least – being the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be.

I’ve talked about the latter before as well, cos surely we can’t ask more of ourselves? It’s what we tell others all of the time. Especially kids… “Just do your best,” we tell them. Most of us are less-generous with ourselves. Expecting far more.

Sadly I struggle with my type A personality (I blame my dad 😉 ) mixed in with my people-pleasing nature and my self-worth being WAAAAY too tied up with how (I think) others perceive me.

However, as I overanalyse myself and my behaviour to death become more enlightened, I realise I’m not actually a perfectionist about EVERYTHING.

mediocrity

 

People who used to read my diet blog will know I used to do the bootcamp thing – requiring me to carry jerrycans full of water up hills, and toss tyres about. #asyoudo

Once I realised how much those sessions made me dread exercise I focused more on stuff within my comfort zone (gym based circuits – HIIT, Tabata and the like). Indeed, if you flick back to my posts in 2011-2012 you’ll find much pondering over the fact, even though I attended 4-5 gym classes a week, I felt guilty that I wasn’t a runner (when everyone else seemed to be!)

Of course I know how that story ended. I stopped exercising, gained a stack of weight and didn’t live happily ever after.

Lately I’ve been seeing A LOT of of advertisements and Facebook promotions for bootcamps and personal training sessions. (I suspect it’s a ‘we’re approaching summer’ thing here in Oz!)

My immediate reaction to seeing those ads is one of guilt… that they’re something I SHOULD be doing. But then sanity prevails and it occurs to me that I have NO DESIRE AT ALL to do anything like that. I mean, yay for those who do… but I don’t. So I’ve been interested in how my mindset and attitude to that stuff has changed.

I talked recently here about wanting to rejoin Zumba but must admit the idea fills me with dread. Or at least, dislike.

The overanalyser in me would worry it’s just apathy and laziness preventing me from joining classes, and stress about that.

But in all honesty I would actually be happy if I could find a yoga / pilates class to do some strength and ‘core’ work on a weekly basis; walk for 30mins 2-3 times a week; and do my 8000 steps on other days I’d be kinda happy.

And it feels wrong to admit that. Like I’m only aspiring to mediocrity, rather than ‘more’. Is it, I wonder?

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | And Anyways | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

32 Comments
  • Lydia C. Lee
    October 26, 2017

    I go to a lot of talks on Anxiety and Depression and perfectionism is a really HUGE part of this. I saw the saddest thing ever – where a person said “I’m a perfectionist and I’m not perfect. It’s exhausting”. I see it in teens and they implode under the weight of it. Embrace the good enough of life and you, because it is good enough. Try your hardest of course, but you can only do your best and the rhythm of happiness beats there. Nice post.

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      It occurs to me the comparison trap thing feeds into that perfectionism as sometimes there’s no real definition of ‘perfect’ (getting a book published / writing a book / having it be a bestseller / critical success / having a well-paying job / having an important job – and says who)… some of it is so subjective and I think the problem is we rely on the comparison thing to assess our performance!

  • Natalie
    October 26, 2017

    When it comes to regular exercise, pick what you like to do, Deb. We’re all unique so why go with the masses?

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      True Natalie and it’s weird that it’s only recently that I’m ‘allowing’ myself to actually do that. Which is weird that I’ve been so hard on myself for so long.

  • Jo
    October 26, 2017

    I see the boot camps set up along the beach each morning. Occasionally I feel guilty just walking past – like I should be joining up. I see the same when the runners pass me. The thing is, none of them seem to be enjoying themselves & yet there am I walking along at my own pace loving life. Sometimes mediocrity is good.

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      There are so many runners though who just LOVE running. I’ve never enjoyed it. Even when fitter. I suspect there’s a point you get past the antipathy and become a devotee but I never made it. I’m probably less interested in the running thing now but do feel bad I’m not pushing myself at a gym or something but realise (as I mentioned in my response to Lydia) it’s mainly because I compare myself to others who are doing just that.

  • Jodie
    October 26, 2017

    I do think of this as a perspective thing. Because I think doing yoga or pilates three times a week is fabulous!! In fact, that would be a whole lot better than what’s been going on recently (which is a big fat zero)!
    Besides I love the fact that I learned I don’t have to try to be perfect (since I never was and never will be)!! It’s been a huge relief to enjoy life and laugh at myself!!
    XOOX
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      I think I’m still pretty hard on myself Jodie but not as much of a perfectionist as I once was. In fact I don’t tend to notice my perfectionism that much, but others mention it so I figure it must still be there!

  • Vanessa
    October 26, 2017

    For the record, I hate bootcamps. I go the beach for peace so it wildly $hits me when people are screaming over something (I view as) totally unnecessary to health. It’s just one option of one way to exercise, but they inflict it on others in the very early morning.

    Uh, totally not a pet peeve at all 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      Tee hee… I’m more like Jo. I don’t really care that they’re there but it usually makes me feel guilty. I realise that’s about me not them, but it’s still a bit confronting. (Though I guess I feel the same when people share their gym pics or running pics – there’s that level of guilt that I’m not doing stuff like that!)

      • Vanessa
        October 31, 2017

        Haha see now I take specific pleasure in that time I accidentally was eating fast food takeaway breakfast at Bondi when a boot camp showed up and had to run past us all the time. The death stares we got were hilarious.

        • Debbish
          November 1, 2017

          Oh that would be a killer. I used to have to walk by a heap of takeaway places in Brissy after work each day and the smell killed me. I was always glad Brissy public transport didn’t allow eating in buses / trains for that reason.

  • writeofthemiddle
    October 26, 2017

    Ahhh yes I recall the days of bootcamp. Saw you there once or twice LOL! Our PT was such a nice guy but I was the only one who hated to run. He made us run around and around the park until I felt like I was going to throw up. I had to crawn on hands and knees up bituman road hills [I bought exercise glove thingys to help stop the shredding of my palms eventually]! I quite liked the boxing but regardless those days are behind me and I have accepted that that kind of exercise is no longer for me. I prefer a gentler and more ME specific approach these days. I mix it up and I actually enjoy the exercise I do now. So what others perceive as ‘proper exercise’ is not always what is ideal for me … or you … or everyone! #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      I went to that one once but started going to one that other 12WBTers were doing near the RBH somewhere Min. It was held really early on a Sat or Sunday. There was a studio and a big hill outside. I didn’t mind the stuff in the studio but hated doing the stuff on the hill with jerrycans etc…

      It’s funny as it wasn’t something that was ‘in’ a couple of decades ago and I wonder what will be the ‘fad’ in another few decades. I guess it allows PTs the option of not using / paying for a gym.

  • Jan Wild
    October 26, 2017

    Your current level of aspiration doesn’t sound mediocre at all to me. We each need to find what works for us as individuals, and sometimes that is trial and error. Give it a shot and see how you find it, and get that judge off your shoulder.

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      Ah yes, that damned judge. I have actually heard back from the pilates instructor (there seem to be only three options throughout the Fraser Coast – two run by physios in their practice) in the last day or so, so it looks like I’ll commit to that! Fingers crossed.

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    October 26, 2017

    It’s so true that we are less generous towards ourselves than perhaps children and others.

    I’m on this phase at the moment where I am concentrating on living my life, my way. Not to the detriment of others but I’m releasing myself from the need to please others.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      Oh yes, that’s a wonderful approach. We so often put ourselves last. I think my people-pleasing is getting better (in terms of lessening) and – as you say – it’s possible for that not to be detrimental to others or relationships…. and if it is perhaps it’s an indication that there’s something wrong with that relationship.

  • Kathy Marris
    October 26, 2017

    I don’t think you’re being lazy of unmotivated at all. Participating in yoga, pilates and walking a few days a week is not mediocre – it is fantastic! Not everyone is built to be a marathon runner or a weight lifter. I realised this a long time ago and now focus mainly on pilates and walking. #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      That’s great Kathy and it’s reassuring to hear that it’s working for other people!

  • leannelc
    October 26, 2017

    Sometimes I wonder if we are secretly kindred spirits Deb – the perfectionism based on people pleasing, the trying to love exercise but secretly hating most of it – and now I see that you aren’t a Zumba lover – I like you even more! I am getting soooo tired of trying to fight the fact that my metabolism is slowing down – I just want to take it easy and be kinder to myself these days.

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      I like dancing Leanne but Zumba just doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid and – at the moment I feel a sense of dread etc when I think of it and don’t really want to ‘hate’ the exercise I’m doing. When I think about what my body feels like it needs I feel like I need to be stretched and more supple. As I’m getting older my lower and upper back are becoming sore and stiff and I think I need to work them more. I also suspect my lower back issues are a result of my ‘core’ (stomach etc) not being as strong as it once was when I did yoga / pilates regularly. Sometimes I feel as if I can barely roll over in bed…. everything seizes up so much.

  • Emma
    October 27, 2017

    Somewhere along the line it seems we have been trained to believe we can be perfect, perfect jobs, perfect bodies, perfect hair and that we should do anything (pay anything) to achieve this, it’s just not possible as we are human and, when I am old and grey, I am not sure how bothered I will be I never tried Zumba – I’ll just be happy to be alive and, hopefully, still able to drink gin x

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      Oh yes Emma. I still want to lose a bit more weight – but have no desire to get to my official ‘ideal’ weight which would be about 10-15kg under that. I know I wouldn’t be able to maintain it – or to do so I’d have to live a life that wasn’t terribly enjoyable! Like you said, I want to be able to still drink gin (or champagne or red wine in my case, or eat chocolate) but still feel fit and healthy enough to get about my everyday life with minimal problems. Once upon a time I stressed about whether I’d be able to walk a steep hill without puffing or lots of stairs but now I realise I rarely climb mountains or hundreds of stairs and if I had to it’d be okay if it was a challenge!

  • unclutteryouruniverse
    October 27, 2017

    I to was brought up in a home where doing the very very best was expected all of the time and all those years later and no longer being connected with my parents and sibling, it’s still something a struggle with a lot. Now I’m trying to live by the motto that doing what you feel comfortable on any given day is, doing the best that you can. I used to also be a gym bunny and did step classes and weights every single day. Now I try to walk more days than not and do yoga and pilates classes at home, on at least one day per week. I see boot camp participants being forced through their paces and think to myself, that this kind of exercise is not sustainable. How many of these people do this form of exercise as a form of drastic weight loss before the summer, actually keep it up? I honestly think it’s each to their own when it comes to exercise and for it to be sustainable you have to enjoy doing it.

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      Oh yes, I certainly agree that if you don’t enjoy something you won’t do it so have tried to choose exercise I love or at least, don’t hate. (And those options seem to be diminishing as I get older!)

      It’s funny – my dad was one of those ‘Just do your best!’ kinds of people but he was completely the opposite and I think I absorbed that no matter what he said!

  • maxtheunicorn
    October 27, 2017

    I, too, find yoga much more appealing than hardcore bootcamp and the like. At least if you do something you like you’ll have fun and not be put off totally like has happened in the past. I wouldn’t think of it in terms of mediocrity.

    Di from Max The Unicorn

    • Debbish
      October 27, 2017

      That’s true… I guess as we understand ourselves better we learn more about our habits – and my habit of dropping out of stuff I don’t enjoy!

  • seizetheday20
    October 29, 2017

    Should is a word we need to eradicate from our vocabulary! Who says we “should” be doing this or that? Just the thought of boot camp makes me anxious. I’d much rather walk because it’s not just exercise, it gives me quiet time as well, which suits me. You have find and stick to whatever suits you. Not everyone needs or wants to be a runner #overrated 🙂 xox #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      October 29, 2017

      Oh yes ‘anxious’ is a good word Lyndall. I talk about the sense of dread but it’s anxiety attached to that. Dread makes me feel as if I’m just being lazy but in reality it’s the sort of thing that consumes my thinking….

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    October 31, 2017

    Oh, I do not miss boot camp at all. I was also dragging tyres up hills. Dread. But I do miss the results. I looked awesome! #teamlovinlife

    • Debbish
      October 31, 2017

      I start pilates today Leanne (well, I have an assessment for a new class) so I’m looking forward to that as I hope to see (and feel) some physical results!

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