I’m fired up, frustrated and validated, all at the same time this week. Several of my beautiful friends, who know my passion about “feeling average”, have shown me the popular blog from Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Dagui’s “A Life in Progress” about her “mediocre” life. It’s been floating about the internet for a while now, being shared by sites like Becoming Minimalist, Mamamia and Kidspot quite recently.
Krista speaks of so many things I want to say. I agree wholeheartedly with her desires, but I cringed at the title. I desperately wished she’d used “average”. It cuts me to the core me that she chooses “mediocre”, because nothing that she writes about in her article is.
Honestly, I wanted to save this nugget for my book. It’s the inspiration that got me writing in the first place. But, who knows if it will ever be published. So, here it is.
Even though we’ve come to think of them synonymously, “Average” and “Mediocre” are NOT the same thing. Let me tell you why.
Culturally, the message that we need to make something wonderful of our lives has been soaking in and affecting the way we think about ourselves for hundreds of years. As people search for the “meaning of life”, self-help books and life coaches have proclaimed the philosophy that we all just need to find our talent, our gift to offer the world. Then our lives will have significance and purpose.
At the same time, we’ve been trying to define “success”. In our age of celebrity and materialism, success is most often linked to beauty, wealth, status and exceptional talent. And so, although average really means “in the middle”, as a society in general, we’ve decided “average” isn’t good enough and use it interchangeably with “mediocre”.
If you check a colloquial dictionary, you’ll see “mediocre” means “something that is only average, but was expected to be much better”. What is one critical difference between the two words?
The expectations many of us have of ourselves, or that we place on each other, have become frighteningly skewed. They are causing anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness and most sadly, the breakdown of relationships and suicide. They’re built on shallow one-dimensional stereotypes of “who” we are meant to be. They’re informed by the pretty pictures we paint of ourselves on social media. They’re reinforced by clever marketing telling us we can find happiness and contentment if we buy this, live there, earn more.
You know, I couldn’t bring myself to include a cheesy picture on this blog either. You’ll have to put up with this photo of me instead. It maddens me that everywhere I’ve seen Krista’s article shared, the marketing gurus who’ve posted it have included a photo of a smiling mother hugging her kids. It’s clever marketing. Here’s how you can be happy! Read our article! Many of their readers will identify with it and lap it up.
Feeling inadequate because of our unrealistic expectations affects men and women, young and old alike. Why? Because it’s become part of our everyday thinking.
As a woman, you are trying to be some combination of wife, mother, income provider, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, niece.
As a man, you want to be some combination of husband, father, income provider, mate, son, brother, uncle, nephew.
On top of those, perhaps you’re also trying to be athlete, volunteer, coach, mentor, student.
Our culture tells us how to be perfect in all those pursuits. You must work hard, train hard, try hard, and give everything of yourself, and then some, if you truly want to be brilliant.
What happens when we do all that and we don’t reach the pinnacle of achievement we’ve set ourselves as a lofty standard? We feel like failures. Maybe we focus on one thing because our talent shines there and it makes us feel good, but then we realise how little we’ve focused on the other areas of our life. Now we feel like failures and we feel guilty.
Let me shape some realistic expectations for you.
Are you a new mum? Your baby is going to take up every moment of your waking hours. Your house will look like a bomb went off in there, your mother will have to suck it up, because you’re not going to have time to call her and your bestie is going to deal with the new 9pm-I’m-going-to-bed-now curfew on socialising — at least for a while.
Are you a student? You study your butt off and know your work inside out, but sometimes, that still puts your marks in the middle. Just because there are people who did better than you doesn’t change how hard you tried and how much you learned in the process.
Are you trying to make a career for yourself? You can’t work 12 hours a day and have time to spend on your kids, your spouse or your other interests. Something has to give.
All of us have multiple things in our lives that are important to us. If you choose to focus your time and energy on one, the others must suffer. If you divide your attention amongst them all, the compromise is that you simply can’t produce a stellar result.
Here’s the clincher. Results shouldn’t be the most important thing to you.
Results. Oh, how we love them. Why? They’ve become the superficial way to prove “My life matters. I deserve to exist.” They are also a reason why we assume “average” is the same as “mediocre”.
What about your passions? Your efforts? Your intentions? Your love and desires? And something we don’t consider often enough — who loves you?
If these drive you and give you purpose, you might be average, but you’ll never be mediocre. Your life might not look glamorous, you might not climb the corporate ladder, be wealthy, or be pinned with badges of excellence, as far as our world defines them, but I hope you can tell yourself that what the world thinks doesn’t matter.
You have been made brilliantly and wonderfully, just as you are. Make the choice to embrace average. Live it, wholeheartedly, with every bit of passion, desire and love that you’ve got to give.