Overcoming The Fear of Ordinary

I believe in a big, fabulous, colourful, supernatural God life! But sometimes doubt sneaks in. I fear I’m kidding myself, that in reality, my life is not that compelling, not that special. What if I am-gasp!- ordinary?

Even worse, what if I retaliate against being ordinary by becoming a narcissist? This line jumped off a page recently: “The ego has a shame-based fear of being ordinary (which is how I define narcissism)” (1). To overcome the fear of being ordinary, we may descend into narcissism. We may cope by creating a fantastical alternate reality for ourselves.

We allow our egos to swallow our souls whole and make the dictatorial decree- “I am not ordinary, I am extraordinarily special”.

Narcissists resolutely believe they are more special than everyone else. They may even lie, steal and manipulate, with astounding ease, to maintain this idealised self. But it will be at a devastating cost to those who trustingly fall for their duplicity.

Narcissists are a living manifestation of arrogance and entitlement entwined with calamitous low self esteem and a noxious fear of criticism. If you dare to shine light on their imposture, they will dramatically claim they are the wronged and misunderstood victim.

Dear God, don’t let me be even a little bit like that.

But I’m scared I am. I also read this on the same page of said book: “I think of my ego as my inner hustler. It’s always telling me to compare, prove, please, perfect, outperform, and compete”. Ouch!

As a speaker, I admit I can attend a conference and watch another speaker thinking, “Why isn’t it me, aren’t I as good, the organisers must think I suck, how do I get their attention? And all the time I’m thinking these hustler thoughts, there is another part of my mind screaming, “Stop it you egotistical self-obsessed cow, you are such a loser for even thinking this!”

At first, shining a light on my ego made me shrivel in shame. Then I took another look: OK, my ego isn’t the sum of me. It’s the broken bit of my humanity. I guess a Christian would call it our “flesh”. It’s in me but it doesn’t have to own me. I can make it my b*#ch!

A better Christian than I, put it this way :

“15 I’m a mystery to myself, for I want to do what is right, but end up doing what my moral instincts condemn… 17 And now I realize that it is no longer my true self doing it, but the unwelcome intruder of sin in my humanity…. 20 So if my behavior contradicts my desires to do good, I must conclude that it’s not my true identity doing it, but the unwelcome intruder of sin hindering me from being who I really am…

22 Truly, deep within my true identity, I love to do what pleases God. 23 But I discern another power operating in my humanity, waging a war against the moral principles of my conscience … 24 What an agonizing situation I am in! Romans 7 (The Passion Translation)

I know Paul, right? I know! It’s agonizing!

Agony- that’s the word researchers chose to describe the experience of many silver medalists on the Olympic podium. They have just won a world class medal, something few people on the planet will ever earn, yet they find this moment agonizing. Why? Because after years of training, early mornings, sore muscles, no social life- they were one step away, one millisecond, one move, one fraction of a point away from gold.

McKayla Maroney cannot hide her disappointment about the sliver medal at the 2012 Olympics.

This same research showed that the bronze medalist was often in as much ecstasy as the gold medalist. Even though they placed lower than the silver medal, they are happier- why? Because they were only one step away, one millisecond, one fraction of a point away from winning fourth place, from winning nothing.

These same researchers explain the difference: It’s all about our point of reference. A point of reference is something that is used to judge or understand something else . Psychologists explain, “The question of what is “good” or “poor” performance is difficult to answer without applying a reference point—a standard for comparison” (3).

We look around us to find what is our standard of beautiful, say, the cover face on Vogue. We look at other people’s houses in our city to decide what we judge as well off. We see how many “likes” a person gets on Instagram to judge what is popular. This helps us decide how ordinary we are, whether we are “winning” or “losing” in life, where we place ourselves compared to others in our sphere.

Research also showed that most people choose a point of reference that is extreme and unrealistic (4). For example, our reference point for beautiful is often an airbrushed, computer altered photo in a magazine. We injudiciously choose the one amazing, gifted person who is having a moment in the sun and ignore the other hundred like ourselves in the shade.

Comparing yourself to other humans is a joy killer.

It either kills you with pernicious pride or with crippling disappointment.

Comparing yourself to God, however, is an ego killer. It’s a flesh slayer.

Our best point of reference is God. Beside the beauty and magnificence of God, you would consider yourself lucky to feel ordinary. If you were to stand, kneel, let’s face it fall before the throne of God you would be slayed by awe.

The very best of humanity would look less-than-ordinary compared to God’s glory. The greatest intellectual would look foolish, the greatest beauty would look dull, the most moral would look dodgy, the richest would look poor and the most powerful would look weak.

Yet, in a wonderful dichotomy this extraordinary, supernatural, mind blowing , star exploding, breath stealing God calls us special, his masterpiece, his treasure, precious, his beloved (5). These are all anything-but-ordinary statements of identity as long as we use Jesus as our reference point.

Paul goes on to confirm this solution to our fear of ordinary in the remaining section of Romans 7 quoted above: “24 …. So who has the power to rescue this miserable man from the unwelcome intruder of sin and death? 25 I give all my thanks to God, for his mighty power has finally provided a way out through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! “ (The Passion Translation)

Jesus is our ultimate human reference point. The most extraordinary being in the universe became ordinary to give us an extraordinary life.

So go be extraordinarily ordinary!

Elissa Macpherson


  1. Brown, Brene (2015) “Rising Strong” Penguin Random House: London pp.62
  2. Brown, Brene (2015) “Rising Strong” Penguin Random House: London pp.62
  3. https://academic.oup.com/jpart/article-abstract/27/4/562/3893608
  4. Santos, Dr. Laurie “The Happiness Lab” Podcast: Pushkin Industries Season 1:1 October
  5. Ephesians 2:10, Song of Songs 4:9, Isaiah 43:4


For insight into a relationship with a narcissist I recommend the book, “Fake” by Stephanie Wood.

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