Do you have a fear of being ordinary? Do you dream of fame and fortune but worry that you might live a normal, mediocre life instead?
Growing up, I wanted to be unique and memorable. I feared being ordinary and refused to accept mediocrity. I studied hard in search of high test scores, accolades, and perfect grades.
Koinophobia, pronounced key-no-phobia, is the fear of being ordinary. More specifically, the fear of leading an ordinary, normal, unmemorable life.
As a teenager, being average was not negotiable. I dreamed of becoming famous throughout my childhood, but now I laugh at the idea.
Thanks to time and personal growth, I no longer fear being ordinary. Instead, I embrace it. Here’s why.
Why Are We Afraid of Being Ordinary?
To figure out if we are better than average, we need to rank ourselves among our peers. In the age of social media and the internet, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others.
The question is, should we? Should we measure an extraordinary life by the number of social media followers we’ve amassed or the number of likes that appear.
Click-bait headlines, Instagram-worthy photographs, and Facebook snapshots all capture our attention, but a meaningful life doesn’t require a highlight reel that slings across the globe.
The internet is full of false images of people’s lives, and social media provides a broken measurement for success.
Fame and wealth are poor indicators of success. You can have gobs of money and still be a mean and miserable S.O.B.
Not to mention, our assets and accomplishments say little about our values. The price of our cars, homes, and vacations aren’t indicators of how we treat others. The rich and famous may have earned their fortunes in evil and unscrupulous ways.
How Do We Define an Extraordinary Life?
Like beauty, the definition of an extraordinary life may be in the mind of the beholder.
In high school, my next-door neighbor wanted to become a model. She donned high-heeled shoes, practiced her catwalk, and stared at the pages of fashion magazines.
She tried out for modeling gigs, but no one ever hired her. She was a beautiful girl but too short to work high fashion gigs.
What does it take to be extraordinary? At 6’1″, I might’ve made it as a model, but I didn’t want to live in that limelight. I didn’t want to fly around the world, walking on catwalks and starving myself. I tried a few local modeling gigs then turned my attention to other things.
That version of fame appealed to my neighbor, but it didn’t appeal to me. How do you measure greatness? Staring at the lens of a camera didn’t feel extraordinary to me.
Extraordinary Becomes Ordinary
The fear of being ordinary can keep us racing towards the next big thing. Once aboard the hedonic treadmill, it isn’t easy to jump off.
Imagine receiving an A+ on your last paper. Does that mean you can slack off this week? Of course not. If you fear being ordinary, you’ll want to get a high mark on the next assignment and the one after that.
Contentment doesn’t arrive at the doorstep of fame and fortune. Instead, the fear of being ordinary can push people to continue running.
In a state of fear, you’ll continue searching for the next memorable moment—the next chance to prove your worth. You’ll keep reaching for the extraordinary pinnacles of success.
Along the way, you’ll feel the stress and worry of constantly outpacing your competitors. Imagine writing a best seller and immediately fearing you’ll never write another note-worthy novel.
Imagine being plagued by the feeling that you’ll never be as good as you were yesterday or, quite frankly, that you’ll never be good enough.
The Fear of Being Ordinary and the Quest to Build a Legacy
Some people who fear being ordinary also fear death and worry that no one will remember them after they’re gone.
Try not to think about future generations you will never meet. Instead, create for the love of creating. Write because you can’t wait to express yourself, and sing because you love the sound of your voice.
Share your talents with the world because you can’t keep them in, not because you need praise for them.
You’ve heard the saying, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If no one knew what you set out to achieve, would you still try to accomplish it?
If social media didn’t exist, would you still capture the moment, or would you live in it? Focus not on external motivations but rather on intrinsic ones.
When you do something, please focus on the joy it brings.
We Can Be Ordinary and Happy
Do we need to be extraordinarily talented to be happy? No. Do we need to be extraordinarily successful? No. Extraordinarily rich? Nope. Not that either.
Would fame make me happy? I don’t think so. If it did, I wouldn’t blog anonymously.
Don’t Fear Being Ordinary. Fear Being Stagnant
We shouldn’t fear being ordinary. Instead, we should fear being stagnant.
Recognizing the beauty of ordinary life doesn’t mean you can’t reach big goals. You can plan small goals every month or giant ones if you have the time and space in your life.
Do you have a big goal that you want to fulfill? That’s great, but ask yourself why you want to achieve it.
Do you need to be the best? Are you doing what others want you to do? Do you need recognition, or do you want to do something to better yourself and the world around you.
The key to living an extraordinary life is to aim for progress. I don’t need to write the best blog posts. Instead, I need to improve each time I write a new one. After typing words into my computer, I need to read them and like how they sound.
I base my definition of success on new metrics and compare today’s version of myself to yesterday’s. In reality, I am my greatest competitor. Instead of trying to impress someone else, I succeed for myself.
My goal is no longer to be the best but rather to improve a little bit every day.
Why Do We Fear Being Ordinary?
What is wrong with being ordinary? What if we became comfortable living a life that isn’t all that spectacular by society’s standards.
When I choose to be grateful, I stop worrying about the noise of expectations and mistakes. I applaud those who want to achieve greatness on grand scales, but I’m no longer one of them.
If you fear being ordinary, you may have a fear of going unnoticed. But I bet plenty of people see you. My children and parents think I’m extraordinary. Sometimes, my spouse does too.
I can be an incredible mother, daughter, and friend. I can reach out when people need me and be there when others are in pain.
Many of us think of ordinary as boring, but what if we changed our mindset. What if we viewed ordinary as calm, peaceful, and content. Imagine how much happier you would be if we weren’t constantly chasing success?
We don’t need to become the most successful person on earth to live a simple, extraordinary life.
Be Driven by Joy, Not Fear
I am no longer afraid of being ordinary. I now see its beauty and relish the moments that make up my days.
If I’m not careful, I’m going to miss this moment. Every moment is extraordinary because it only happens once, and I will never relive it again after today.
In this ordinary life, I can spend time with my children, take walks and enjoy being surrounded by nature. I don’t have to rush from one place to another, and I can take life slowly instead of hurrying to the next life goal.
An extraordinary life begins when I feel content with my choices, decisions, and the people around me. I am living my best life when I grow my relationships and skills.
Embracing an Ordinary Life
My ordinary life might be uneventful, but that’s where I want to live right now. Not in some crazy, headline-worthy place, but in this space, where I am content to be who I am with the people who love me.
Those Instagram images make me think my life should be more significant or somehow more important, but then I realize happiness and fulfillment are right here in front of me.
When I stare at the internet, I realize that my dreams may be quieter than the dreams of others. Reaching the next big thing might keep me away from the things I most desire—a quiet, happy home.
But what’s wrong with choosing a different, some might say, ordinary path? What if the simple pleasures of life are all that I need. I don’t want to spend my days hurrying from one place to another, and I don’t want to waste my time on a career that doesn’t fill my soul. Am I leading a small life or one that is perfectly pleasant? One that fills my heart as much as old extraordinary goals?
While we remember the extraordinary moments of our lives, we recall plenty of the ordinary ones too. I still remember rolling coins with my dad, plopping pennies in my savings jar, and playing with my beloved older brother for hours.
I don’t need to be famous to live a meaningful life. Thank goodness for those who can make extraordinary advancements, but we don’t have to change the world on such a grand scale to live a meaningful existence.
I think happiness exists in the most ordinary of days.