Welcome to a new year in Lexiland! Yes, I know I have sadly neglected these pages but here is one new post, at least on which I ponder how freeing it is to give up trying to be brilliant.
When I was growing up I felt it was very important, vital even, to be brilliant. My parents would say that they didn’t apply this pressure, and they didn’t deliberately, but the whole environment, from family to school to society in general, seemed to make it very clear that being brilliant was the thing that made you a worthwhile person. Whether it was brilliance at making money, at academics, at art or simply brilliantly beautiful.
I don’t think I’m the only child who interpreted our society’s love of achievement in this way. I feel this is the root of all those ‘You Are Enough’ mantras. Because we’ve been indoctrinated from all sides to believe that unless we’re brilliant, we’re worthless.
Back in the late 90’s, when reality TV was just getting started, I saw an American show where one of the young, female contestants was introduced as ‘Paediatric neurosurgeon and Playboy model’. Now THAT was brilliance, I thought! THAT was what I should be aiming for…
In fact, during one New Year’s Eve when we had to some kind of ‘my fantasy life’ game, I pretended to have just such a CV. Unfortunately, the one woman there who’d never met me before thought it was true. You’ve never seen anyone so disappointed as when she realised I was just an ordinary bod. The expression on her face proved to me that being brilliant is the thing people judge you by.
But being brilliant is hard. And subjective. There are times when I felt I’ve achieved something brilliant, only to have it completely ignored by others who have different priorities. You can’t be brilliant to everyone, all the time. It’s been a hard and long lesson to learn.
I’m thinking about this because the other day I read an interview with Julia Cameron who wrote The Artists Way. One line jumped out at me. She said, “It was when I gave up trying to be brilliant and started trying to be useful that I really began to achieve.”
Yes, I thought! This is so true …brilliance is a hard, shiny sort of thing, distorting reflections and impossible to get beyond the surface. Whereas being useful is how you make genuine connections. It’s how you develop a multi-layered network of people, ideas and emotional currents that bind themselves into something deep and meaningful. Something far better than brilliance.
So one of my intentions this year is to become more useful. Not useful in an obliging, dogsbody sort of way. That doesn’t help anyone and especially not women, tempted as we are to always take on the role of doing everything for everyone. It’s a different kind of useful, one where you take what you honestly know you’re good at and share it.
One of the ways I’m going to try to do that is through this blog, which has been sadly neglected for the past few months. To that end, I’m kicking off with 7 in 7, a short blog post a day for the rest of the week.
These first posts will be remembering my highs and lows of 2017. They may not be practically of much use (I’m not reviewing lipsticks, teaching you how to paint a shed or bake the perfect fruitcake, for example) but hopefully, in my mulling over things, there will be something you can pull out and find useful in your life.
Because 2018 is the year of being useful – whether that’s empowering other women on social media or helping a neighbour carry their shopping to the car. Useful … the new brilliant.