If you’re anything like me, you’ve imagined yourself on the cover of magazines or being handed some prestigious award on a glitzy stage or earning the coveted MVP title for being awesome at some sportsball game.
In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ve not only imagined yourself in those situations once, but many, many times.
Or perhaps you dream of one day making it to the expansive corner office on the top floor of your work building. Maybe you long for being well known on Instagram or YouTube. Possibly you want to have a million devoted people subscribed to your email list who also purchase everything you create in lustful droves.
You could feel any one of those desires and I’ll be the first to tell you that you’re not alone in feeling that way. We want to be known and recognized for our work or for who we are. It’s an understandable and relatable thing. It’s rare to meet someone who’s okay with living an obscure and little known life.
It’s also a pretty rare thing to have someone tell you that it’s 100% okay to live a life that’s just “okay.” However, that’s exactly what I want to do for you today.
It’s okay to just be okay in your life
One of my biggest fears when I was younger was that I would die in obscurity. I would be nothing but a forgettable number in the global population and not worth anything at all. Sure, I may have some friends and family that would miss me, but what about the world?
Would the rest of the world miss me, or even know I existed?
It’s taken me a lot of time and concerted effort to realize that those were the thoughts of someone who wasn’t valuing themselves like they should have been. I wasn’t seeing my true worth. Instead, I was focusing on how I wasn’t measuring up to others or how I wasn’t world famous.
I’m sure I missed out on a lot of opportunities to try new things or meet new people because I was so fixated on the thought of being nothing. My 20s probably could have been a lot more interesting if I’d not been so down on myself. (Although, in fairness to myself, my 20s were actually pretty decent.)
It wasn’t until I was flipping through the pages of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson (and eventually gave the thing a full read) that I realized it’s okay to just be okay. Say what you will about the book — I’m sure I would agree with many of his detractors — but there were still parts of it that resonated with me.
In the section titled, B-b-b-but, If I’m Not Going to Be Special or Extraordinary, What’s the Point? Manson writes,
The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies — that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “Your actions don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.”
Just reading those words, especially being told by someone else that it’s okay to be boring and not noteworthy, felt, as he suggests, like the pressure of being amazing was lifted off my back. I felt like I had permission to just be a normal person, instead of some global star. I didn’t have to live up to the grand expectations foisted on me by the world.
Reading the words he wrote helped me a whole lot. If it took someone else telling me it’s okay to just be okay, then that may be the case for other people. In which case, listen up: friend, it’s okay to just be a normal person. It’s okay to just be okay in your life.
It’s okay to just be okay with your work
As I wrote in the Dandy Newsletter, when I was a child, I wanted to be a teacher.
When I was in high school, I wanted to be an actor.
After high school, my interests bounced around from photography to sign language interpretation to voiceover artistry.
When I was going through film school, I wanted nothing more than to be a cinematographer working in film and tv.
Now, I want to learn how to be my most productive self and help others achieve the same.
I’ve had many big dreams for my professional life, and most of them could be considered to be more aspirational than I could accomplish. For instance, I didn’t actually want to live in L.A., face constant rejection, and most likely never become that famous actor I dreamt of becoming.
I didn’t have the drive to put in the work that becoming a working actor requires.
Instead, I spent a large amount of time thinking about what talents I had and how those could be applied to work that would better suit my personality. I enjoy working with computers, I enjoy writing, and I love trying to make my world as productive as possible. Now I’m doing something that combines all of those qualities.
All it took was learning to be okay with not winning an Oscar. I needed to learn that it was okay to sit at my desk every day, write a whole lot, and maybe help a few people along the way. Maybe it’s not the glitziest thing in the world — they don’t put many people who sit at desks all day on billboards — but it’s okay.
You don’t need to be the first person to land on Mars, the person who invents a cure for death, or the new Albert Einstein. If you do accomplish any of those things, then great! However, no one will ever consider you a failure if you don’t. You need to do what makes you feel happy and fulfilled, even if it doesn’t make you famous.
It’s okay to just be okay with your mental health
The most important part of you is that thing sitting between the ears on the sides of your head: your mind. I want everyone to be as physically healthy as they can be, but nothing much matters if you don’t care for your mental health.
It’s breathtakingly important and an utter shame that proper mental healthcare is still not as essential as it should be.
I want you to be okay with your mental health, and the key word here is “okay.”
If you’re feeling phenomenal today and like you could leap over a skyscraper, then that’s wonderful. Be Superman. However, if you’re feeling like all you can do is just make it through the day, then that’s also wonderful.
Just being okay is something that’s not stressed enough when it comes to mental health. Instead, we’re buffeted on all sides by the expectation that we must all be shimmering sunflowers that spew rainbows and cupcakes, otherwise we must be depressed or failing at life and ew, who wants to be around a depressed person?
However, the obsessive pursuit and expectation of happiness isn’t a healthy goal to pursue. In fact, it could have negative results. From an article in the Independent, written by Rachel Hosie and titled, Why Trying To Be Happy All the Time Could Be Dangerous,
[Danish psychology professor, Svend] Brinkmann believes that by desperately trying to be happy all the time, when something bad does happen, we won’t be able to cope.
Turns out that the obsessive happiness that we’re all encouraged to pursue and embody by our workplaces and society can actually have a harmful effect. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be happy, but seeking perpetual happiness is probably going to end up with you feeling pretty unhappy.
The pursuit of “okay” is more worth your time and effort. The world around us is usually just okay, so why shouldn’t we also be just okay? Chasing after the highest of happiness highs is only going to leave you with a long, painful fall back down to earth when things inevitably sour.
Just going for feeling okay is good enough. Sometimes, okay is great and all you could really need. Stop giving into the unreasonable demands that you be forever happy for everybody else.
This is important: all you need to do is be okay for yourself.
We’re all expected to be amazing, famous, and cheerful at all times. The world expects all of us to adhere to the incessant pursuit of greatness, and not doing so means you’re a failure at life.
I say screw that. Sometimes the world doesn’t know what the hell it’s talking about and actually kind of sucks.
I want you to celebrate the feeling of just being okay. Okayness is worth striving for. Knowing that you don’t have to be perfect will leave you feeling better about yourself, and you deserve to feel good about yourself.
Being okay is an underrated quality. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.