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May 21, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Things I Already Know But Just Need To Be Told

NOTHING I DO IS EVER AS GOOD AS IT COULD BE. PEOPLE KEEP TELLING ME I HAVE POTENTIAL—WON’T THEY BE EMBARRASSED WHEN I PROVE THEM WRONG?

For a while I thought it was fine that it was jealousy that was fuelling me. That I needed the desperate urge to do as well as I perceived those around me were doing. I thought it was okay that it was the fire under my ass that got me up in the morning and got me going. (I seem to be implying that this time and thought has passed. That I am now free of the need to impress others and, much more importantly, myself. That is not the case. Obviously.)

What I already know is that jealously may be a fuel, but all the good that could come from it is burned up in the resulting inferno. What I need to be told is that to feel any kind of success, to feel any kind of achievement, it has to be done on my own terms. And I do need to be told that time and time again. It is so tempting and easy to only motivate yourself in opposition to the world around you, to do things because they’re not what other people are doing. We all want to be rebels. We all want to be different. Punk didn’t die; it just put on less distracting clothes.

I need to practise to make everything come from within. This is not about being steadfast or irrational or alone; it’s about trusting myself to not have to live a reactive existence. There are vastly better ways of doing things than simply seeing where something is not and saying “No”. I love and treasure my ideas, so why don’t I trust them? Why do I always have to look to the outside world for something for my ideas to fight and be better than? Why must I always forget that the distorted lens of perception muddies any real sense or truth about what anyone else is trying to do and why they are trying to do it?

I am a critic not to tell other people how they are doing but to tell myself to be better. Even written down that seems kinda smart. Kinda the right idea. It isn’t though. All it does is hurt. All it does is build the kind of unachievable expectations within myself that I can never really achieve. All it does is sketch out for me the distant, impossible goalposts which ensure that everything I do feels like a failure. This is ridiculous. I would never let anyone else feel the sense of disappointment about their own output that I do about mine. So, it has to change. I have to change.

There is work to be done.

To judge something’s success on anything other than its own terms is the kind of emotionally juvenile, two-dimensional thinking that has made the internet basically a no-man’s-land for any kind of actual considered thought. So, I will stop. I will practise assessing everything I do on its own terms.

Something will be good if it has done what it wants to do, not because it has not done what other people are doing, or been considered successful by any metric beyond my control—number of views, number of tickets sold, distribution reports, retweets, reblogs, money, all more arbitrary and beyond my control than I will ever admit in person. I will believe that if something is interesting and worthwhile to me, it will be interesting and worthwhile to other people. I will stop trying to be right because I think other people are wrong. I will be right because I’m right. That will be enough.

I have spent ten columns so far telling people how to live their lives. It’s time for me to start living my own.
(Don’t worry, next week I’ll be back on to you.)

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

Comments (4)

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  1. Josh Wright says:

    Yes.

  2. Josh Wright says:

    When I say ‘yes’, I mean it as a general seal of approval. Not an answer to your rhetorical question at the beginning.

    LOL.

  3. smackdown says:

    good things come 2 good ppl uther, like when i get an extra turn on the x box

    but u are better people than me so you’ll get more than one extra turn and it will be awesome possum :-)

  4. Zoe says:

    A super smart friend once told me that the way that great people continue to be great, is by always feeling like they could do better (and thus pushing themselves all the time). It doesn’t help much, as resting on your laurels (so to speak) will draw you into failure, so this tension you feel will always be around in some form; but it may soothe the wounds a bit. Pretty much, this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

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