Average is underrated
Here’s an admission: I’ve always been average. In the middle class at school, middling grades, average school reports, although I excelled at reticence, apparently. I was average at swimming – sometimes last, never first, more often centre pack. I was distinctly less than average at ballet and was kicked out, aged 10.
There’s nothing wrong with doing your best, of course not. There are people who strive to do things really well, single-minded, naturally talented, disciplined and practised. We probably wouldn’t have some of the scientific discoveries we have, nor some of the creative wonders, without such people. There is often a high price to pay however: burn out, mental ill health, sometimes physical ill health and occasionally, an early death.
No, average is definitely underrated. I have an average shoe size and nothing I do will change that, except perhaps a decrepitude, outwith my control. So why is ‘average’ seen as such a negative descriptor? I am never going to be a painting master, or a principal dancer, no matter how long I study art or ballet. And I’m fine with that. I’m never going to be a celebrity baker either – I lack the killer instinct and burning ambition. I don’t mind being average. This doesn’t mean I don’t work hard or try and improve my skills or want to do my best. I think we confuse ‘average’ with ‘mediocre’. Average is, after all, a term we borrow from statistics and as you know, it simply means a typical data set, most commonly the ‘mean’ . I’m human. I’m typical of most humans: I feel pain, I live, love, laugh, work, sleep and eat. None of this sets me apart from my fellow humans. Mediocre is a more qualitative term and we use it to describe something that’s not very good. We use it to negatively describe people too.
In this zupped-up world, where many people want to be media stars and ‘influencers’, we are constantly battered with messages that we need to improve: we need to be fitter, thinner, sexier, richer, wiser, braver. We are effectively told, on a daily basis, that we are not good enough as we are and that if we’re not striving, then we’re failing. Well, I’m happy to be average if it means I get to be content with myself. I’m happy to wave the banner for a ‘typical’ woman if it means I don’t have to worry about competing with other women; if I can sit out the race and enjoy the meander; if I can accept that there are some things I can’t change and that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really much matter. Hands up if you’re OK with average too?