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Embracing Average: The Argument for Mediocrity

Updated: Apr 27

As part of a special education team, back in my school social work days; we would evaluate children's skills and abilities to determine how to better support them both academically and socially throughout their school day.

What we often found was that children with very high intelligence scores often struggled as much with socializing as children with very low IQs. They often had a hard time making friends, understanding social cues, especially non-verbal cues, and could end up feeling more isolated, sad and with no enthusiasm for school.

The students who fell in the "middle of the bell curve" (as it's described in psychological testing), however, may not have excelled or faltered at academics, but generally seemed to have friends, enjoy school, and overall managed to get by without much issue. "There's nothing wrong with being average", said the speech pathologist one day. It seemed like such an innocuous statement, but it meant so much to me.

Somewhere along the way from elementary school, we end up as adults comparing ourselves to everyone. Being average isn't enough. We need to have more and be more-- more money, a bigger home, a nicer car, a more wonderful spouse, smarter kids, a thinner physique, less wrinkles, bigger boobs. We have to be happier and get the idea.

But what I found in my school social work days was that all any parent wanted for their children was friends...A friend...just one friend. Nothing breaks a parent's heart more than their child not having friends. It was a rare parent that would accept an isolated child over an academic genius. Most of them would choose embracing average over anything else.

To compare is to despair. We will always find someone better off in one way or another if we look for it. In fact, our entire social media construct is set up to help us find just that. I don't know about you, but I have fallen victim to despair more than once when I scroll those [cough] evil, I mean useful, forums. In the face of comparison, we will never win.

So why do we subject ourselves to such pain?

What if we started celebrating our 'averageness'? Instead of "that's awesome! or you're amazing!" We could say "hey, that's average! Good for you!" I know... it would never fly.

But what if we just allowed ourselves room in our head and our heart space for being average, for good enough? Would we, just like our younger selves, be happier, have more enthusiasm, feel more connected, take issue with little? I suspect as much.

Mr. Rogers, a very wise man who had a television show for children in the 60s and 70s, focused on making children feel special and unique. He called them 'friend.' He strived to help make the world better by allowing room for children to be who they are, feel what they really feel, and to feel listened to and validated.

This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique… I feel that if we...can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health. ~Fred Rogers, Senate hearing on PBS funding

While I suppose being special is better than average, I think our intent is the same. If we can find contentment in our ability to be exactly who we are, with no apologies, no striving, no comparing; then we would find our worth and honor it. Just having and being a friend would be enough.

And as wise Mr. Rogers once said:

The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.

That worth only comes from knowing that even if we are average, we are a gift.

If you are struggling with the relationship to your own self-worth and mediocrity, reach out. I'm here to help.

a young boy and girl smiling at each other and embracing


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