Friday, 15 July 2016

Bumbling along

I've never been remotely competitive. I watch people outdoing each other for the trendiest job or the flashiest house or the smartest children, and I really wonder why they try so hard to impress other people rather than just doing their own thing and enjoying themselves.

I've watched other people strenuously climbing the greasy pole to that sought-after managerial job, or mortgaging themselves to the hilt to get that palatial house, or boasting about their swish holidays in some exotic location. I just think, well, good luck to them, but I'm quite happy bumbling along on a more modest path, savouring what I already have and quietly ruminating.

Ah, but why do you go on about it, comes the obvious retort. Maybe you're jealous of their fancy lifestyles and secretly you'd like the same. Or maybe you're embarrassed at your lack of ambition and humble achievements, but don't want to admit it.

I don't think so. In fact my instinctive reaction to people openly competing with each other is to ignore them and walk away. At political meetings where a bunch of men are vying with each other to make the sharpest, wittiest comments, I have no wish to get involved. I just wait patiently for them to run out of steam.

Being childless, I've never needed to brag about how well my children are doing, how intelligent they are, what plum job they've landed. If I did have children, they'd probably be the ones who slouch around in scruffy clothes and lurch casually from one un-glamorous job to another.

Whether it's intellectual brilliance, career advancement, the property ladder, cultural awareness, sexual conquests or alcohol consumption, I couldn't care less if other people seem more dazzling or more capable. I just carry on ploughing my own furrow.

PS: I've noticed some people's blog posts are not showing the Comments section. If mine isn't, just click on the blog title and the Comments section will show up.

27 comments:

Bijoux said...

I've found the best way to deal with these types is to not engage. It tends to infuriate them when you don't notice their latest purchase or whatever it is they are so proud of.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I agree. They're usually desperate for attention and admiring gasps, and if they don't get them, it really pisses them off.

Dave Martin said...

I reserve a special level of contempt for the world's show-offs.
When someone clearly thinks rather more of themselves than they ought to I either take Bijoux's route by ignoring them or simply take the piss to bring them down a peg or two.
There's no point having a fancy shop window if the storeroom is empty.

Rummuser said...

I am like you. I can relate.

tammy j said...

we are peas in a pod nick.
it's not easy being a happy bumbling along person in a country like America that is full of rampant competitive types.
we even compete AS A COUNTRY!
it's all they talk about.
even as a child in elementary school.
I often had on my report card ...
"an underachiever. does not apply herself."
even though I made very good grades!
I was simply not ever competitive.
always grasping for the stupid gold ring is beyond me.
are all those competitive people REALLY that happy???
I think probably not!

Ursula said...

I hear you, Nick, but what if you were, say, an athlete, part of a football team, any team? Bumbling about won't cut the finishing line or score anything.

U

Nick said...

Dave: Yes, empty storerooms are often the reality behind the go-getting facade. How they look to other people is the only important thing.

Rummuser: I know from reading your blog over many years that your outlook is very similar to my own.

Nick said...

Tammy: I always had that impression that the States was a very competitive country. And if you can't keep up with the winners, then God help you because nobody else will.

Ursula: Ah, I've never been at home in a team of any kind, because by definition they're competitive. I hated team sports at school, I never root for one country or another in professional sport, and I'm not comfortable as a member of any political party. But those who do take part in team sports seem to thrive on it.

Liz Hinds said...

No, no, those are my children!

Nick said...

Liz: Oh surely not? I'm sure your children must be well-dressed, well-behaved and in extremely worthwhile jobs.

helen devries said...

I enjoyed what I did and once I had realised that advancement lay with the big mouths and bigger connections I was quite content to get on with serving my clients to the best of my ability.

On the other hand we've lived in some pretty grand houses in our time and I have noticed that that roused fury in the competitive among our acquaintances while for us these places were just our home...where we lived.

Nick said...

Helen: Exactly. When you look at the sort of people you have to butter up to get what you want, it seems a better option to stay put.

Jenny and I are in a similar situation. We're lucky enough to own a large detached house, but I expect some of the neighbours resent our good fortune.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Hmm. I think I'd make a distinction between being competitive and taking some pleasure or pride in an achievement. I feel good about being a decent shrink, wife, and mother, for instance, but I have absolutely zero drive to make a lot of money, gain recognition from my peers, or be the mom who throws the fanciest birthday party. I just want to be good enough to get by. I want my kids to be happy, but I don't care what they do for a living as long as they hurt no one. And I fully accepted the one in his goth-t/mohawk stages and the other with his dreadlocks. They are good kids - kind, sensitive and bright - and that I am proud of. Beyond that, for them or for me, I don't much care.

Nick said...

Agent: I'd make the same distinction. I don't think there's any competitive element in feeling proud of something you've achieved. Unless of course you're comparing that achievement with someone else's and you want to outdo them. I'm proud of all my successes in life, in particular just being myself when others are trying to push me one way or another.

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm a happy underachiever too. :)

Nick said...

Jean: Not sure about the term under-achiever. It sort of implies a norm of constantly achieving things. But I know what you mean!

kylie said...

I am sometimes tempted to compare myself to others, sometimes favourably and sometimes not, but I try to keep the comparison inside my head.

Nick said...

Kylie: Me too. I compare myself to others, but not in a competitive way, more like, are there lessons I can learn from this person about how to live my life and how to get on well with other people?

John Gray said...

Send me a novelty veg photo and we will see how competitive you are x

Nick said...

John: I don't even grow vegetables, so no chance of that unless I can stage something! I'm enjoying all the novelty veg pics, without the slightest inclination to compete....

Keith Smith said...

The people who piss me off are the visual braggers. You know the type, their car windows are covered in stickers of where they have been, what they have seen and what they have done. I was recently a passenger in a friends car following a rather beat-up old mini. The rear window was covered completely with gaudy badges stating "We have been to Woburn", "We visited London Zoo", "Seen the Mary Rose" and lots of flag pennants of practically every city and country, Wales, Scotland, Maldives, Benidorm, Iraq(?) etc.

Who wants to where these complete strangers have been? Certainly not me! And isn't it against the law to cover the windows with that sort of crap?

Nick said...

Keith: I agree. All those window stickers are so pretentious, aren't they? Who cares if they've been to Woburn or the Outer Hebrides or Timbuktu? Perhaps we should invent some spoof stickers like "I've been to the planet Neptune" or "I fell into the Grand Canyon" or "I was thrown out of Disneyland".

Anonymous said...

I sometimes think all these people suffer from an inferiority complex. I know a woman in my neighbourhood who is covered from head to feet with label clothes bags shoes etc. She looks really ridiculous.And I love your suggestion of "I've been to the planet Neptune." I sometimes wonder how my husband and myself will explain to our two small children that a good life depends on much more than on all these superficial things.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: I think you're right, they're compensating for a feeling of inferiority by piling up status symbols. I've never worn designer clothing in my life, unless you count Wrangler jeans! Surely fashionable names on your T shirt or jacket are the height of crassness? Yes, it must be tricky trying to stop your kids falling for the shallow charms of materialism and consumerism.

Hattie said...

I am ambitious sometimes and not so ambitious other times. Depends on what it's about.
Not having a college degree bothered me, so I went back to school in my 40s and got my BA and MA.
I rhink status anxiety has got a lot of people upset, though.

kylie said...

Nick, do what most of us do and buy a couple of veggies!!!!

Nick said...

Hattie: I don't have a degree. I did a year of an incredibly boring sociology degree course, then dropped out. I've never felt the lack as I've stumbled into all sorts of interesting and enjoyable jobs regardless. And I've never been troubled by status anxiety. My anxiety is more around whether I'm being true to myself or not.

Kylie: Or nick a photo off the internet!