What happens when you’re promised work and it doesn’t materialise? Feel like throwing a tantrum and sticking your bottom lip out like a surf board? Yes I feel like that, especially right now. You feel like you’ve given your all. You couldn’t have been nicer, you showed them your best side, you were charm itself and you feel like you’ve got it in the bag. And then what? You don’t hear from them again, apart from the odd paltry excuse as to why they’ve not been in touch. There may be genuine reasons why they haven’t called or emailed, but at the end of the day they don’t realise your gas bill is due any day now and you feel like screaming.
It hurts – because no matter how good you are, no matter how high you value yourself and your skills, someone has either got there before you did, marketed themselves better or the clients or agencies your were vying for just didn’t care that much. You can reach the point where you wonder whether it’s worth the effort at all. After all, what more can you do? How many tricks can you turn, how many times can you turn on the charm? It’s enough to make you give up, or you see someone younger, prettier and seemingly cleverer than you that seems to be doing much better than you are.
It usually makes me feel quite inferior intellectually and socially, and if I’m honest in every conceivable way possible. I have always been like this, while others are always confident and constantly blagging their way through life convincing everyone of their skills and talents.
Montaigne and my flagging self-esteem
However, at times like this I always look to someone cleverer and wiser than myself for inspiration and Michel de Montaigne is the perfect man for this. He was an influential writer of the French Renaissance and he believed we shouldn’t go around thinking we are better or worse than anyone else. He focused on three main areas of inadequacy, that of our bodies, intellect and being judged by others. As I am suffering from a certain feeling of inadequacy right now looking a little into of what he believed may go some way to making me feel better. Montaigne believed that we should all aim for a more normal concept of reality and that we are constantly looking to the wrong role models to measure ourselves against. We should, according to Montaigne, accept the ordinary in ourselves.
He believed in this so much he wrote a book about himself, where he talked openly about his body, his penis and his bowel movements. He believed that humans had awkward relationships with their bodies and he compared humans with animals, we shit, they shit, animals are our equals, this wasn’t meant to degrade us, but to make us see that we should accept ourselves for who we are, to break it down, to simplify it. We have big brains you see, therefore we have grand ideas about how we should be, how we should be doing in comparison to someone else, how we should look in comparison to someone else, how successful we should be to someone else. Are you with me so far? At the end of the day we are no better than anyone else, no better than simple human beings that shit and fart and eat and drink. We shouldn’t try to compare ourselves to someone else that represents some ideal person that we think we should be – when really they’re no better than we are.
With regards to intelligence, Montaigne was a little sceptical of university graduates (although I am one myself), and referred to them as “just blockheads,” what he meant by this was; that as far as he was concerned the symbols of intelligence that we hold so dear are very different from the reality, as we don’t value other things as much. For instance, he believed wisdom was of great value, he watched simple working people, and in comparison to those that had attended university often seemed much cleverer. For Montaigne, he believed that to be wise was to live with humility, modesty, and in acceptance of your limitations. You don’t need to know everything; nobody knows everything, no matter how clever and smart we think we are. However, he didn’t believe that learning was useless, just that people who went to university weren’t that much cleverer than the rest of us. Exams test students on the wrong things, yes, some people are cleverer than others, but it doesn’t make them wiser. Qualifications tests people on things that won’t do them much good in the real world, they serve only to make you feel stupid if you don’t know the answers and others feel clever when they aren’t. I know that there were students at my last University that thought they were the cleverest people in the room, yet they were poorly read and didn’t seem to have basic common sense. They were good at writing essays, but piss poor in general at everything else.
Perhaps then, it isn’t as important as I think it is to be this raging success, so that every time I go on Twitter I can openly brag about how successful I am and how you can be too. I don’t have to write cheesy how-to-guides on how to be really successful. I don’t have to be as beautiful and as clever as the next person. I shouldn’t constantly compare myself to someone who seems prettier and more successful, because at the end of the day, they’ll open their mouths and hey presto..idiots. There is such a thing as giving yourself enough rope to hang yourself with.
I can be successful, I can be good, but only measure my success by my own standards, know my own limitations and be good at what I do best, for it is that that will bring me happiness and satisfaction. Ignore the hype and the bullshit; ignore the naysayers and the ones that extoll the virtues of their own methods for they are all bullshitters. Just listen to your own inner voice. There may be people around you who give the impression that they are doing better than you are, but really, we’re all in this together.
I feel better already….
And thanks to Mr Montaigne and Alain de Botton for making me feel much better than I did an hour ago……
About the author: Gillian Jones
My name is Gillian and I’m writer and academic, I’ve trained as a teacher, worked for the public sector and now I’m a freelance copywriter. I provide content in various guises, topics and tones of voice both for agencies and private clients.
You can connect with me on my blogwww.ysbrydion.blogspot.co.uk or my website www.taith.net
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