All our lives, we have been ‘average’ — above average, below average, or just plain average.
We’ve exceeded expectations and met expectations; we’ve overwhelmed and underwhelmed – our loved ones, our employers, our mentors, and our peers.
When everything is noisy and chaotic and advertisements continue to construct the message for us to be more, to want more, or to need more, we continue to work in the manner of trade-offs; continually sacrificing sleep for productivity, continually compromising calories for compliments, and continually searching for the next best thing.
We have always been asked for more, and so when we hear the word ‘average’, we interpret the meaning with a sense of fear and anxiety, like running on a conveyor belt away from inevitable mediocrity.
It’s no wonder we feel depleted, we feel sad, and we feel devoid of joy. We wait to peep behind the curtain, feeling anxious, and feeling fearful of sharing our worries and our curiousity. ‘Average’ became a forbidden word akin to masturbation — you do it, you think about it, but it’s still taboo to talk about it.
And so the ‘what if’ questions begin to spiral, sometimes out of control — What if I’m not smart enough? What if I’m not strong enough? What if I’m not good enough?
Never quite certain when enough is enough.
And while others are keeping everything together, seeming to possess what appears to be boundless energy and stamina, we grow exhausted, aspiring for moments of quiet solitude and calm.
We try desperately to ignore, and try valiantly to survive, the consistent requests for something better on the horizon. To aim higher, to reach further, and to be stronger and more fabulous than any other human being in the history of the universe. We are reminded of our value through comparatives, battling our doubts and our insecurities, challenging the picture of exceptionalism – we wonder: is not always wanting more…enough?
We turn to our parents, to our peers, and to our social media accounts for validation. Searching for answers in endless rabbit holes, where we have access to more information than any other time in our history, and yet we have this feeling of incredible loneliness in every interaction because we’re unable to reconcile our ideal self with our real self.
Our millennial narcissism is real. All day, every day, we see, we hear, and we talk about the truly extraordinary. All day, every day, we see versions of social ideals in edited perfection, we hear affirmations of our greatness not yet attained, and we talk ad naseum about the absence of greatness in memes of epic failure.
For many of us, living in the muddy middle means watching pensively from the sidelines: seeing what others have done before us (the high achievers), learning from previous mistakes (the epic failures), and setting realistic benchmarks for success (the individualized ideal). Being average is not about pursuing mediocrity, statistically, no one is ever really ‘average’ at all. Being average is about choosing to be remarkable on our own terms and accepting mediocrity when we end up there despite our best efforts.
We continue to see the world in binaries: more versus less, better versus worse, normal versus different, and remarkable versus average. The comparisons are so ingrained that we are compelled to label and continue to allow judgements to make us feel wholly inadequate.
Our labels and our judgements hinge upon our fictional idea of exceptionality. Understanding and accepting ‘average’ as a spectrum, recognizing that every person has their own separate strengths and weaknesses — being more and being better, then becomes rooted in how we work together instead of how we work apart.
Our exceptionalism is not in our lack of trying, our lack of adhering to expectation, or even our lack of ability. We are exceptional because we are flawed, because we are are fragile, and because we are curious. Our exceptionalism is in our high level of self-awareness, in opening up to the opportunity to become better versions of ourselves.
We are exceptional because we know there are multiple pathways to the same destination.
We are exceptional because we are acutely aware that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everything.
We are exceptional because we will try something else, and we will share new methods and new attempts to get to where we want to be, and to where we choose to be.
We are exceptionally ‘average’ and this is our anthem to the unfairly glorified siren call for social worthiness. We take comfort in the middle, comfort in the word ‘average’, and comfort in our individual journeys because there isn’t the pressure to be exceptional for someone else. We are exceptional in the things that matter most to us: family, friends, fun. We are exceptional because we know to measure not how high we’ve reached, but how far we’ve come on defining what matters to us and what matters to whom.
We are exceptional. We are enough.
You are exceptional. You are enough.