There are people whose greatest fear is being boring and ordinary. They have an existential need to be special and outstanding. Obscurity terrifies them. Their whole identity is built on this foundation. Sadly, it’s not a very stable footing.
I’ve known people that have rejected a lifetime in partnership with lovely potential partners, because they feared an existence of routine domesticity. Usually, the rejected potential partner goes on to have a thoroughly exceptional, interesting and outstanding life, thereby demonstrating that the story of mundane suburban purgatory was largely a fiction that existed only in the mind of the rejecter, irrespective of reality. It’s tragic, but it happens.
Some would-be artists adopt the airs, manners and behaviours of genuine, unique, individual artists, because they need to inhabit that persona and be seen to be anything but boring and ordinary. Unfortunately, their artistic output is often unremarkable and inauthentic, because they’re only play acting. It’s a protective cloak to protect them from being perceived as average. Unfortunately, this cloak is rather insubstantial.
Most creative work, after the initial brilliant and inspiring idea flashes into your consciousness, is in fact dull, repetitive, boring, frustrating, uninspiring, routine and insanely risky. Anybody pretending to be an artist just wont put in the hard work to become genuinely outstanding. There will be no joy, flow or immersive fulfilment in trying to bridge the efforts, skills and quality gaps that separate what they imagine they want to create and what they actually can create.
Controversially, some people go to the lengths of self-identifying as something less conventional, sexually – not because they’re made that way, but rather as a contrived statement of how different and complex they are (or wish they truly were). These people invariably go on to have exceptionally conventional relationships. The pretence, again, was all a game, but one that is demeaning and insulting to those who are genuinely LBGTQ.
I don’t fully comprehend the mindset. If you don’t want to be seen as boring and ordinary, the only route out is to do the hard, persistent work to create interesting and extraordinary works. You become an interesting and extraordinary person by what you make. If all you make is a thin persona pretending to be interesting and extraordinary, you’ll get found out. This is one case where Imposter Syndrome has being an actual imposter as its root cause.
Why do people even worry about being seen as not boring and not ordinary? Where does the sense of entitlement come from? If you have curiosity and the courage to explore and take risks, then that’s a way of being that’s independent of the judgement of others. You don’t need anybody’s approval, permission or admiration. The joy and fulfilment is in honouring and investing in your interests, passions and inclinations.
I’ve met people that wanted to be famous rock stars, but who were unwilling to learn how to play or sing, compose music or discover how to use music production technology. They wanted to take a short cut. In truth, it wasn’t the artistry they were interested in; it was the unalloyed adulation. It never occurred to them that there had to be something outstanding about them and their music worthy of that acclaim.
As a music producer, there is an endless line of wannabe rock stars that pass through your recording studio; all wanting you to push the magic buttons that instantly convert their amateurish performances into chart-topping gold. There are no magic buttons. You have to learn how to craft a song, give a great performance and deliver authentic emotions. No plugin can do that for you.
There are large groups of people that have all the gear, but no idea. They think they can spend their way to greatness. If they buy the same gear as their artistic heroes, the theory goes, then they will be endowed with the talent, skills and insights of those they wish to emulate. It’s a trap, though. The closer to emulating your heroes you get, the less individual you appear. Ultimately, exact copies of other artists are textbook boring and uninteresting.
This is why nobody knows the names of the individual members of tribute bands. Everybody can name each of The Beatles, but nobody knows the names of the members of The Bootleg Beatles. It doesn’t even matter if the musicians concerned are technically better players. They’re anonymous.
For all their railing and posturing against being seen as boring and ordinary, most of these pretenders are, at the core of their being, fearful, hollow and disappointed people, both unable to come to terms with their essential boringness and ordinariness, yet unable or unwilling to do what it takes to be interesting, engaging, attractive and accomplished.
There is frequently an internal, unresolvable tension between wanting safety, predictability, certainty, security and a life free from stressful challenges, versus wanting to benefit from taking risks they don’t want to take, improvising and reacting to situations as they unfold that don’t conform to their imaginary life-script and the anxiety that accompanies not knowing how things will turn out, when they want guarantees of happy endings. This is how opportunities are missed.
I suppose at some level we all want our existence and contribution recognised. Nobody wants to live a meaningless life that leaves an obscure, insignificant legacy. We want our struggles to have been worthwhile. If that’s the case, your best and only hope is to find your own unique voice as soon as you can, through sheer hard graft.
The path is boring and ordinary and there is no short cut.