I once aspired to be an ‘elite‘ athlete and joined an amateur athletics club in my teens.
Let me reframe that. I aspired to be an Olympian, like the ones I saw on television in the Games, because I wanted to run as fast as they did, and I really enjoyed running and had already done very well at it at school. I wanted to see if I could become as fast or faster than they were. This was a feeling of competition, really, not of wanting to become just ‘elite.’
While I did well and won many events, and some of my peers at the time later became the ‘elite‘ athletes I had aspired to be, I eventually gave up and sought a more ‘ordinary‘ life.
Later, the path of my life tried other avenues of expression, in art and acting. Again, while I made great headway for many years, it was the peers I worked with who I thought achieved the ongoing ‘elite‘ level, whereas I felt that I moved into a quieter life, more ‘ordinary.’
I woke with a dream this morning where someone was talking to me about a person they knew who was an ‘elite‘ athlete. They related their association with pride and imposed a sense of glamour on the athlete, as hero worshipers do.
My response was to point out the human equation of the athlete being talked about, and the conversationalist raised an eyebrow at this, as if I was not fully appreciating the value and level of the person involved.
In the dream, I went on to explain what it means to the ‘elite‘ performer to be doing what they do, and how the public misreads that.
I can’t remember the exact words I used, but I woke up in the middle of talking them. I wish I had remembered them, because I thought they were brilliant at the time I became aware. Now, all I have are the gist and the meaning that I know of them, which I thought should probably be said.
Though I never achieved what I perceived as ‘elite‘ levels of expression, I did achieve many things of import in my life.
For me, such achievements were simply goals that I set for myself, that were reached.
There was great satisfaction in their achievement, that I was able to reach those marks, that I met those challenges, and that I managed to express those things. But at every point I was always aware of my human factor, of my flaws and failings, of my vulnerability and sometime fragility, and that while the goals were achieved, there was much of my human life that remained a challenge still to be met, and an ongoing future of human process that could be a lot scarier than these ‘simple‘ achievements.
I have met and interacted with ‘elite‘ people in the arenas of life I worked with, and in each instance I never saw them as heroes or stars but as simply human beings who were expressing and achieving, and who managed to do the superbly satisfactory thing of meeting the goals they set themselves.
Underneath those achievements, in every instance, were ‘ordinary‘ people who needed love, interaction, support and care, and who still wanted the same things each of us want from life – the meeting of inner needs, and the comfort and solace of security (even amid adventure). Because a main factor for anyone, ‘elite‘ or ‘ordinary‘, is to have the best life possible that will make us feel happy.
The greatest challenge in attaining an ‘elite‘ level in life is the view others have of you. Because when those views are overlaid on your achievements, then there comes a sense of responsibility to live up to those expectations.
In some instances, the ‘elite‘ become overburdened by such expectations from others and begin to break down. This can show in a drastic removal of their completely private lives from public view, or through very public breakdowns, or even by giving up on the ‘elite‘ life altogether and the dumping of their previous dreams and ambitions because of the desire to no longer be in the limelight.
In the latter instance, the delight in expressing themselves or their talents, that brought about achievement, becomes sullied because of the imposed expectations of others.
Instead of doing something by their own choice, that they enjoy and value, those outside expectations bring new demands and obligations they may never have been ready for, nor really ever wanted to accommodate in their lives.
You can then understand how many people who show signs of possibility to reach an ‘elite‘ level in life get forestalled, and end up disappointing those who have expectations of them by living very ‘ordinary‘ lives, instead.
An early imposition of the outside expectations of others can completely stymie the desire to express one’s talents and skills.
This is what happened to me, (along with a terrible feeling of vulnerability because of health problems that were not managed well at the time), leaving me feeling that if I kept pursuing those challenges I would only fail and therefore disappoint others. So I took different paths to avoid that scenario.
Of course, in my own case, my spirit kept rising up again even after I sabotaged my efforts, so I did get a lot done, in the end. However, because my efforts were up and down, I was lucky to have never actually been seen by my family and friends as being in the ‘elite‘ category. Lucky, because they had no real expectations of me, so I had a lot of freedom to choose to express how I wished.
Actually, because of this up and down process, my family never really gave me the kudos I deserved for what I did achieve. Instead, they presumed that any ‘elite‘ level I actioned was nothing but me trying to prove myself and was only done to get attention for myself, (which was quite odd considering that the people who didn’t know me personally saw the real quality of what I did).
The results of what I did action was openly seen in my environment, so my family should have realized that no matter what their opinions were, I was achieving things of import, nevertheless. (The really odd thing is that they did acknowledge my success to some degree, by asking me to share the rewards of it with them, but then never acknowledged the skills that earned me that success).
Because of those damning impositions on my character, despite clear evidence of the value of what I was achieving, I continued to have an up and down relationship with my skills and artistic expression throughout most of my life.
I did not want to be seen as someone who was only doing what I was doing to get kudos for myself.
I did not want others to feel uncomfortable about themselves because of what I was able to do, that they felt they could not do.
I wanted to feel accepted and valued for who I was, not for what I did. (In my case, because my own family did not value what I did, and because I was so focused on being accepted by my family, I did not give the acceptance of my skills that came from others the merit it deserved, either). So I continued to deliberately suppress my talents and skills when I was around family and close friends.
It’s not that I never expressed these things or achieved my goals, but I didn’t proclaim or point them out very much at all to family or friends because I didn’t want them to think I was ‘blowing my own horn.’ I foolishly thought that they would see what I was doing, anyway, and realize for themselves the merit of my output.
In doing that, I missed the fact that when people don’t want to know something, they will totally ignore the obvious even when it is staring them in the face.
So, years later, after a long career doing what I did best (in several areas), my family still thought I hadn’t achieved much with my life beyond being a mother and wife, because that was all they saw when they were around me.
I have to acknowledge that I sufficed those ideas to some degree because I actually did put aside whatever I was doing to be fully with them when they were with me, and during those times I subsumed myself to the roles of mother and wife. It was only later, when some of them told me off for the things they presumed about me, that I thought, hang on, the evidence of what I did was everywhere in the environments they met me in, why didn’t they see it?
At this point, let me insert the fact that my relationship with my extended family was very up and down, too.
It was this feeling of oppression and suppression that undermined the expression of my life that saw me rebel at some stages, and end up being cut off from and ostracized by my family.
Interestingly, during those phases of isolation, I was fully free to express myself as I wished, and it was then that I made my greatest achievements.
However, each time I returned to the family fold, old habits died hard, and I suppressed myself again in their company, just so I could fit in.
This was so bad that even after I got very real professional kudos in later life for what I had achieved, I found it very difficult to align myself to the notion of having been so successful that I merited those kudos.
I had spent too much of my life suppressing my own recognition of my achievements just to fit in with people who were never going to accept my skills and talents no matter what I did with them. And thus, appreciating myself for what I did, and still do, was subverted.
So, now, at this later stage of my life, I have a distinct understanding of the ‘elite‘, and of anyone who strives to express their skills and talents to a point of achievement.
The bottom line for anyone doing that is never to gain attention.
It is never to gain kudos for themselves.
It is never to prove that they are better than anyone else.
For anyone undergoing such processes the bottom line is to express their spirit, to meet challenges they set for themselves, and to get satisfaction from actually meeting their tasks and achieving the end point.
Yes, when kudos come, they may appreciate them. Yes, when fame comes, they may like it. Yes, when awards come, they may feel very proud. But these are never the results they aimed for when they started on such paths of expression.
The beginning is always with themselves, with their own minds and hearts, and has nothing really to do with anyone else or any status quo at all.
Even if their expression relates to and interacts with other people to gain achievement, as in charitable or merciful actions, the beginning and the end is for them, for how they want to spiritualize their life, for how they want to be the person they believe themself to be, and for how they want to become the person they feel is waiting inside themselves to become.
This is not about selfishness. It’s not a me or you equation.
It is simple generation of energy and empowerment, from which great things can flow.
So the next time you are hero worshipping or idolizing someone for their achievements, think instead of how wonderful it is that they were able to find the energy and the inspiration to follow the line of challenge completely to the end to meet their goals.
Think instead that these are ‘ordinary‘ people who have found the extraordinary inside themselves and expressed it.
And think, instead of worshipping or idolizing in a way that sets apart or ostracizes them from the rest of society, that these people are models, way-showers, and inspirational messengers who example how anyone can do the same thing so long as they believe in themselves, believe in their talents and abilities, and follow them all the way through to the best degree of effort they can express.
The ‘elite‘ are ‘ordinary‘ people doing extraordinary things, but the bottom line is they are people, just like you and me.