OPINION: I was recently reminded of my own mediocrity. A dull-edged knife that should have cut deep into the vestige of my pride. My opponent was a professional writer whose advice I was seeking.
I could tell from the initial sharp intake of breath that she was incredibly underwhelmed with my offering. Speaking fast, as if ripping off a bandaid, she rattled off the flaws in my piece, a barrage of critiques. It was only when the dust finally settled and the smoke began to clear that I realised I was still standing and in one piece too. I felt no tears or shame, just acceptance.
It appears that at the grand old age of 37, I have managed to embrace my own mediocrity.
She has been my constant companion my whole life, the epitome of the being the middle child. Never having the glory of the firstborn nor the confidence and loudness of the youngest. I have spent two decades running from the word, to still be referred to as magnolia by my mum.
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* 8 instances when being mediocre is more than just OK
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My mediocrity can be seen in the 2:2 of my degree and my inability to learn a language. I glimpse her with every new hobby fallen to the wayside. She is present in every new year’s resolution written and abandoned.
So much energy has been spent trying to be someone, be successful, the top of my field yet the closest I’ve ever got to this was when I was once a formula one driver at a fancy dress party.
Every day I fail, repeatedly. Numerous times a day, in fact. Have I been for a run today? No. Did I want to, yes but there were Maltesers in the fridge. Did I want my kids to have a healthy well-balanced diet? Yes. Did they spend the fourth day in a row eating a bag of chips with a slice of toast for lunch? Yes, because I couldn’t face the battle over why you should eat anything green.
In fact, mediocrity is the slightly worn, soft, cream coloured, 100% polyester dressing gown I put on when I’m faced with the option of stepping in the arena but instead choosing to watch someone else daring greatly. She is the split-second decision to put the kettle on instead of the running shoes, and the reason why tomorrow never happens.
I mean even the writing of this is mediocre, there are blogs out there that are much more creative and witty. Better written with punchy, relatable anecdotes and tales. I highly recommend you read some.
It is time, therefore, after two decades of striving for success, an attempt to excel, that I fall into the embracing cocoon of being average with arms wide open. To stare down the barrel of my biggest fear – the fear of being nothing more than average.
As Mark Manson wonderfully puts it in his article In defence of being average: “A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept being mediocre, then they’ll never achieve anything, never improve, and that they’re life doesn’t matter”.
If you look closely enough at the bell curve diagram he uses, you can see me sitting around the 60 per cent average marker in my high waisted mum jeans, drinking my English breakfast tea, with my 2.4 kids around me. The remnants of abandoned hobbies, courses and resolutions littered around my feet.
If success is both the aspiration and the inspiration, it is also the curse that dogs every turn. Setting success as the end goal, surely ensures that failure will be the one thing we are most successful at.
Mark Manson continues to say: “There’s this kind of physical tyranny in our culture today, a sense that we must always be proving that we’re special, unique, exceptional all the time”. This is present in every social media group you scroll through. Be more, shine more, excel more.
The Great Performers Academy published a blog titled 7 reasons why avoiding mediocrity will make you successful, where someone wrote “everyone has a dream, mediocre people give up on theirs”.
But I have found that by accepting my mediocrity I am already more successful. I may not be Chelsea Winter in the kitchen, but my family are fed. I may not be as hilarious as Dawn French but my kids and I did laugh our pants off at the accidental fart I did on the trampoline. I may not win a Pulitzer for this blog, nor the respect of professional writers, but I wrote it, shared it and allowed you wonderful people to read it. I am incredibly successful when I am just being me.
It turns out there is a beauty in accepting mediocrity. In my life, there are times where I have truly shone, where I have been the best version of myself. It is because of this that I know I will still shine, somewhere and someday. Just not today.
I still have my dreams and I am not mediocre. I am however freeing myself from the feeling of failure.
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