The Merits of Mediocrity
Mediocrity is a gift.
You might not agree, especially if you’re also an American who was raised on the values of meritocracy and rugged individualism, but it’s true.
Think back to all of your high school friends who were star athletes or the valedictorians of your class. How much pressure did they face from well-meaning parents, teachers, and coaches who unknowingly pigeonholed them into one path for the rest of their lives? How satisfied would you say they are now?
The word “gifted” is a curse we place on certain kids at a young age because in our minds they have more potential and deserve to stand out from those who are “average” or “mediocre.”
What we all fail to realize is that averageness isn’t a weakness — it’s a strength. Instead of stigmatizing someone for being average, we should be celebrating them. Kids who are average can end up better adjusted and, in many cases, happier and more successful than their more gifted peers.
I should know because I was the poster child for average.
I grew up in an average middle-class suburb in an average city in the Midwest which, in case you didn’t know, is the most average part of the US. I got average grades, I was (below) average in sports, and I was too average to join any of our gifted programs.
I’ll be the first to admit that back then, being average drove me absolutely crazy. As close friends found their niches and excelled in their own ways, I felt stuck and cursed with mediocrity.
In college, this feeling of inadequacy grew as I faced even more pressure to find my path. I spent my entire freshman year living under the crushing label of “undeclared,” studying topics like British literature, ancient Greek art, and the history of modern design.
It didn’t matter what I was learning, I felt just as lost as I had before — only now I had even more dots to connect which made it harder to find the signal through all of the noise.
As I prepared to fumble into the real world, I faced the same traditional options — choices like internships, full-time jobs, and grad school — and ultimately, nothing felt quite right.