When Did Being Average Become Less Than Ok?

Competition, gold medals, grading, comparison. Endless messsages that we are not good enough.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

I am struck these days by how much competition is part of almost everything that we do.

Gold medalists. First prize. Best of the best. Blue ribbons. 

Not to say that all competion is bad. It can help motivate, create some fun and incentive, and be useful.

But not to an extreme. Not about everything, Not when we use it to further compare ourselves to others and come out feeling less than, feeling not good enough.

I remember the movie about Mozart years ago. Amadeus. The story was told by Antonio Scalieri, another composer of that time, who, not being a genius like Mozart, was continually tormented by comparing himself to Mozart. At one point, with a line that I will never forget, he lamentingly referred to himself as the “king of mediocrity.”

This comparison can be insidious. This validating only the champions can be destructive to our self esteem, if we let it. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love cheering on champions, will root and scream for the home team to win. I am, after all, a product of this society. And it can be fun.

However, there is a dark side that I believe needs to be named. The feeling that since we are not the best, we stop ourselves from even trying to do things that may bring us joy. And that joy should be reason enough for us to try things. 

Since retiring, I am delighted and grateful to be able to do some things that I love. Writing. Painting. 

And even there I find the constant internal comparisons going on. I am an amateur. I have not had formal education or training in art. I have not been in shows, have not won competitions. 

And yet, something comes through me when I paint, and I feel connected to a deeper part of me than I have before. I am allowing that part to express herself. Finally. And there are some who are touched by my paintings. I am grateful.

I love to write. I have not written a book. I have not taken formal writing courses. And yet, as with my painting, something comes through me that feels as if it taps into my very soul. I find that I must write to sort out all the intricacies, for me, of being human. I write to finally hear and express my voice. My Voice. And some respond to things that I write. I touch something in them that relates and resonated with what I write. Again, I am grateful. 

And now I see that this constant comparison can even apply to our process of aging.

There is a good way to look when aging. The best way to age. The models are often still on the gorgeous end of the spectrum. Slim figures, faces still conforming to what are judged as beautiful. Referred to as aging well. It seems that we are even graded on how we age. How did she let herself go?

If we exercise, we should look good doing it. Or be a clown to be laughed at. Perfection or ridicule seem to be the choices offered.

 If we dance, it can be laughable, or cute.

I do not wish to be either. I have not ever, nor ever will aspire to, the label of cute. I am a woman of substance, both physically and in other ways. Not to be taken lightly. Not to be condescended or spoken down to. Not to be cast aside. 

And we are judged no matter which choices we make. If we color our hair, we should embrace going grey. If we get plastic surgery, we should allow ourselves to age naturally. If we don’t get plastic surgery, then the caption can read time has not been kind

If we look younger than our age, we are complimented on not looking our age. So what does that say if we look our age? And why is looking our age a bad thing? 

Aging is a competition that cannot be won. We will all age. We will all die.

 Life is a competition that cannot be won. We will all age. We will all die. We may be remembered for a while or not. So what? We will be gone. 

We are here now. In our glorious imperfection. In our amazing averageness. In our imperfect perfection. In our humanity.

For me, I am going to work to express who I am, what I love to do. Judgments be damned. It’s all ok, as long as I am not hurting anyone else. 

I want to embrace each moment of this precious life. And even more so, as the time grows shorter on the road left ahead. 

I have no gold medals, no blue ribbons. I am average. How very delightful. And, to have the company of so many others who are average. 

Others who are beautiful in their own ways. With their own unique talents and perspectives and voices. I am delighted to be among them, champions of life. Each and every one of us. 

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