Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On being average

I have recently come, more or  less, to terms with one of the several conditions that make me me: fear of mediocracy. Yes, I admit it, I'm scared of being average. I believe it has a bit to do with my naturally competitive nature, and a lot to do with the way I was raised. My parents never accepted mediocracy (or downright failure, for that matter). My brother and I were always expected to be the cream of the crop, in any and all subjects (surprising, then, why neither of us is the cream of the crop in any subject (no offense, bro)). We were technically meant to be the most beautiful, smartest, highest-paid, most-loved, super successful, out-of-this-world type of individuals; instead we turned out to be - dare I say it - two pretty average, but very good-looking, people. So the question is, did my parents make a mistake in placing all of this pressure on us to succeed?

Yes and no. On the one hand, this type of upbringing instilled a fighter in me in everything I do. It causes me to strive to be at the top and motivates me in everything. At the same time, however, it also inevitably sets me up for disappointment. No one person can be great at everything; in fact, now as an adult, I don't think that should be anyone's goal. Rather, I think every person should strive to be excellent (or an expert, if one will) at one subject, and mediocre with the rest. This is what I will try to instill in my daughter and set the bar high for the subject of her choosing. In the meantime, I'll just try to make the best out of my mediocre self.


  1. i have told you plenty of times, if all the people in the world were as average as you are the world would be a better place!

    I know exactly what you are talking about when you refer to your upbringing, it put an unnecessary strain on you! no need to stress kids out like that! i agree, find something a kid is good at and encourage it! do not demand excellence in all things! this is destructive...

    but then again, you are as far from average as it possibly gets! i have yet to meet a friend, wife, mother and just simply a person of your caliber. :)

  2. Thanks Sash for your constant support and encouragement, but as my husband you're basically obligated to say that. I appreciate your words, but I don't think you'll ever be able to convince me otherwise. The damage has been done! :)

  3. I agree that we were raised to be perfectionists, and in the process became jacks of all trades, masters of none. But is that really such a bad thing? I think that I'd rather be an average well-balanced individual than have one unique skill or characteristic that I'm superb in, and suck at everything else! I agree with Sasha too, about encouraging your kids to excel at things they enjoy, but not forcing it on them.

  4. I definitely agree that it sucks to be really good at only one thing, and really bad at everything else. It's important to be a well-rounded person. But what's even better than that, is to be an expert in one area, and a well-rounded person in the rest (or, average).

    But tell me, do you too have a perpetual fear of (or strong aversion to, if you prefer) being average, or am I the only psycho in our family?

  5. Uhhmmm, No comment.
    But I don't have a fear of being average. And, I think it's similar to the law if diminishing returns. It's generally less effort to become average in everything. As you strive to excel at something, it takes more and more effort to do so. Eventually, to become really really good at one thing, you would need to dedicate most of your time and energy to it. Another economics concept plays a role here: opportunity cost. As you spend more and more time getting really good at something, you're missing out at becoming even average at everything else. So, in the end, you can't have the cake and eat it too! So, sorry sis, you're going to have to pick one or the other and stick with it!