There Is Nothing Wrong With Being Average: The Case For An Ordinary Life
Here is a radical idea: you do not need to be extraordinary to deserve a place here on Earth.
Social media and the world at large will have us believe that it is not okay to be average. If you are not waking up at 5 am, performing at the pinnacle of your career, attending the fanciest events, or becoming a well-known public figure, there is something wrong…right?
Not at all.
Most of us will not lead extraordinary, cinematic, larger-than-life lives…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this! Also, it does not make our lives any less interesting or challenging.
Yet, we try and distance ourselves as much as possible from ordinariness, averageness, and the middle ground. Why is that?
Well, it helps to reflect on how the idea of an ‘ordinary life’ makes you feel.
Here are a few possibilities based on what we see often in our therapy practice:
The idea of an ordinary life can make us feel incomplete: we are nothing unless we achieve exceptional heights.
The notion of an ordinary life can also make us feel embarrassed and inadequate: the idea of mediocrity can feel shameful.
Now, where does this aversion to ordinary-ness originate?
In this post, we will:
Explore why being ‘average’ is something many of us spend our lives rejecting
Make the case for an ordinary life being a wonderful life
Let’s get into it!
Why Do We Reject The Ordinary Life?
Perhaps you were told as a child that you are ‘special’. Or maybe the adults in your life were not directly saying this, but you noticed other children around you being distinguished in some way.
In a competitive education system, we experienced the pressure to excel and compete with our peers. Competition in of itself is not a bad thing! It can be highly motivating and help us commit to a long-term vision.
However, there is a dark side to being raised to compete with those around us. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly measuring ourselves against other people. We are also evaluating people against each other to understand where we fit in.
Either we spend our days trying to distinguish ourselves, or we feel overwhelmed by the game itself and withdraw, choosing to shield ourselves from the hurtful comparisons.
The Need To Be ‘Special’ In Childhood
If you experienced pressure to be special in childhood, it may have originated from parents or caregivers. Some parents and caregivers ‘need’ their kids to be special in order to manage their own feelings of low self-worth or inadequacy 😔
Where does all this measuring leave us?
Many of us are good, well-rounded, valued individuals. However, we are not exceptional and due to lifetime of measuring ourselves against other people, we are acutely (even painfully) aware of this.
We never stop feeling the pressure to be extraordinary, and this has the potential to rob of us of the wonders of an ordinary existence. Yes, the wonders of it! The full spectrum of emotions and experiences exists right here.
Let’s make that case for an ordinary life 🙂
The Case For An Ordinary Life
Imagine if all 7.6 billion people in the world competed with each other to be above average! It’s simply not possible for everyone to be above average- and why should we be striving for this anyways?
We can do our best, be ordinary, and still lead a fulfilling and satisfying life.
On the flip side, striving for an extraordinary life at the expense of the enjoying the present moment can leave us feeling empty. Where you are at right now is never enough if your goal is to special.
Being special is nice, and in the same breath so is:
- Being kind
- Being generous
- Being hard-working and ambitious
- Valuing rest and relaxation
- Enjoying the simple things in life
- Doing work that makes YOU feel fulfilled
- Being of value to your family, friends, and community
- And so much more
In other words, we can be special to the people who matter the most. We can be extraordinary in our impact, which may not be felt until the next generation. We can strive for the things we want without competing with a false notion of what is ‘average’ and what is not.
We can live ‘average’ but magnanamous lives because no one gets to measure our contentment.
Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve glorious heights! As long as you do not lose yourself in the pursuit of a notion extraordinariness that never seems like enough.
Before You Go: Being Average Is Hard Enough
Who said being ‘average’ was easy? Consider the odds you beat to simply exist! Our very existance is extraordinary.
If you ever feel overwhelmed by the idea of averageness, take a moment to inventory the challenges you have overcome to be here right now.
The inner work, the learning, the pain, the mistakes, the successess- you did all of that. Our tendency to compare and compete robs us of a deep appreciation of our own extraordinarinesss. Take a moment to be in awe of yourself and document this through a journal entry or video diary.
I want to hear from you: What are your thoughts on being average? How do you cope with competition and comparison in your own life?
Until next time!
Sarah Ahmed is the co-founder and a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. Sarah strongly favors an integrative, trauma-informed, client-centered approach to create a healthy alliance with clients and their loved ones.