If you’ve ever been closely involved with a narcissist, you know that not only do they need to feel special, but the people around them need to be bigger than life also.
Their children must be uniquely talented. Their husband or wife should be smarter and more capable than anyone else. Their friends, the ones they’re willing to tolerate, are more daring, successful or fascinating than those ‘normal’ people he or she might be surrounded with. Words like practical and ordinary are used with disdain.
People who are shy, insecure and without a strong sense of themselves are naturally drawn to narcissists and they to them. It’s a match made in heaven. Or in hell depending on how you look at it.
I was that shy, insecure person. I don’t blame the narcissist in my life. I played my part.
It was almost comforting to embrace the idea that the reason I was lonely and unhappy had nothing to do with me, but with the rest of the world. People misunderstood me because I was different, a rebel, a visionary and artist, anything but ordinary.
I distanced myself from my family (I was the hawk in the family of chickens). I did well at work and had friends, but at home I sometimes felt obligated to find fault with them.
It’s a role that never really sat right with me. Believing you’re better than everyone else, even if it’s done behind closed doors, rarely, if ever, brings happiness. And deep down you know it’s not true anyway.
Eventually, I recognized the lies for what they were – a way to buffer the narcissist’s and my own insecurities and left the relationship.
Embracing an ordinary life
After I left, the ordinary world opened up, and I began to embrace its joys.
When you live an ordinary life, you take each day as it comes. There’s no need to mock, judge or compare yourself to anyone else because you know you’re all in this crazy life together.
With an ordinary life, simple things bring joy. You have more time to appreciate what’s right in front of you when you’re no longer so critical of what others are doing. Instead, you can focus on improving yourself and discover what really does make you happy.
I didn’t realize until I stepped away from it how much effort it takes to live a life that keeps you apart from the world. In a narcissistic life you are often exhausted, lonely or frightened. There’s no one to turn to because you believe no one else has ever experienced what you’re going through.
Your separateness becomes a shield and you bury your hurts where no one can see them because you’re convinced no one will understand. If someone does reach out a helping hand, you’ll likely smack it away because deep down you don’t believe anyone really cares.
Pain can separate you from the world as much as arrogance.
In an ordinary life, someone will always understand because you’re open to others’ experiences. You realize you don’t have a monopoly on either heartache or success. Others have been there before, but now you can appreciate what they have to offer because you’re not competing. You are more responsive to sharing both the good and bad parts of yourself.
No matter who you are or what you do, there will always be someone who will do it better. And there will probably be many who do it just as well. Be grateful and learn what you can.
An ordinary life, an extraordinary you.
Ordinary is no longer a word I need to spit out like it is poison.
I believe our common genetics bind us more than separate us from the rest of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re not all unique. No single one of us has exactly the same DNA or the same experiences.
What does an ordinary life mean? To me it means realizing that the ordinary is truly amazing. Some of the things that are so commonplace they happen all the time include:
- The sun rises and sets each day, and sometimes it turns the sky into a palette of dramatic hues and shades
- The tide rushes in and out leaving perfect ripples across the sand
- The song of the wind as it wails through the valley sounds like it carries the voices of thousands of years
- Every fall leaves turn gold and fall to the ground and in winter the branches shimmer like frozen silver
An ordinary life also means not trying to be better than others but to be the best you can at being yourself. It means understanding that everyone is struggling with something. It’s not our place to judge others for where they are in life.
In an ordinary life we don’t need to feel special or bigger than life. We just need to be ourselves and share who we are in the most authentic way we can.
What does an ordinary life mean to you?
Leslie Clary is a writer, photographer, online college instructor and editor of Our Daily Zen newsletter. A global nomad, today she lives quietly in a secluded spot on California’s high desert. You can follow her on Twitter.