Are you afraid to be ordinary? Einstein wasn't

My nephew turns one this year, and his entire life has been chalked out for him. Sound familiar?

Saba Khalid April 02, 2011
My nephew Azlaan will turn one this year on May 3 and his entire life and career have already been sketched out for him by his parents, grandparents and even his aunt - me!

Every day, while preparing his bath, his grandma smiles at his tiny little hands and passes her verdict: he will be a surgeon when he’s older.

I disagree, he’ll be a writer. She frowns and tells me, “Of course not! Can’t you see, he has the fingers of a surgeon?”

Nana jaan, on the other hand, wants him to be a finance guru like himself. And his parents - well, that’s another story!

No matter what career little Azlaan chooses, he will be disappointing one loved one or another. God forbid, he chooses to be a cook; he will have to be the best cook in the country, if not the world. Why? Because his loved ones believe he is ‘extraordinary’.

And isn’t that exactly what parenting is all about? Telling our kids that they are special, building up their self-esteem as they grow along?  A good amount of this is actually needed for survival. If our parents didn’t make us believe in our own abilities, we wouldn’t be able to wake up in the morning and strive at school or work.

This perceived ‘special-ness’ helps us to become well-adjusted, functioning human beings. However, many times, we become obsessed with the idea of being extraordinary.

Now, with You Tube, American Idol, X-factor and Superman everyone is convinced that each one of us is has a talent that can change the world.

But what if we don't?

When expectations unbelievably high, no amount of success is ever really enough. And each time we fail or fall, dissatisfaction comes in holding a placard reading:
“This can’t really be? We are extraordinary beings, meant for much bigger things. Maybe, this is just a hiccup along the way”.

The truth that we might simply be ordinary is so bitter and hard to swallow that we have to blind ourselves with thoughts of greatness. Most of us punish ourselves with extra work, self-pity, jealousy and self-denial. We spend hours comparing ourselves to others, measuring who is the closest to that line of extraordinariness.

If there was no fear, need for approval, desire to be liked, holding us back - we could be absolutely invincible! We would be able to work to our full potential without judgment or fear of failure.

Perhaps complete liberation from self-expectation is a catalyst for reaching greatness.

Think about it. Would Einstein be able to give us his theories and inventions if he knew what his legacy was going be 200 years later? Who can really live up to the expectation of being the Father of Modern Physics?

He did it all by honestly believing he was ordinary. And with this belief, he changed the world.
Saba Khalid A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Safyah | 13 years ago | Reply Well written. These expectations of achieving goals set for you by others is good for oneself but it can be very frustrating sometimes. Especially when you've realized what you want in life but this is NOT what your ammi, abbu, baji, aapi, khala or maamu thought for you.
Usman | 13 years ago | Reply nice insight into what seemed to be a pretty complex topic to me. We live in a society where special-ness is inevitable and unless it's put into our souls by our parents we can't survive the menacing society around us. great read thanks for sharing!
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