Being Average in a World that Demands Exceptional

the road at night by Jen Bebb

Most of us are average.

We are average in terms of professional and/or personal success. We live in average homes, drive average cars and live average lives. We are average in so many different ways: looks, weight, personality, ability, intelligence, athleticism and more.

Average folks work SO HARD and rarely get noticed. They feel like the back-up singers to those who are exceptional. They fly under the radar, accomplishing things, but always struggling to break out and achieve the success that is just out of their reach.

I confess…I’m average. And knowing that I am one of thousands, if not millions, simply trying to do the best I can, is both comforting and discouraging all at once.

I’m so used to being overlooked that when I’m looked at, it takes me by surprise.

I struggle to feel worthy of success, to stay determined and motivated when things don’t always come easy (they never come easy). I find myself wanting to stand out, yet feeling fearful when I do. I yearn for recognition of a job well done, but am reluctant to accept it when (if) it comes. I struggle with body image, a plain face and the legacy of unrealistic expectations in an airbrushed world.

I am average, just like you.

We judge others against our own experiences, not knowing their commitment to the work or the sacrifices they make. We take refuge in mediocrity assigning almost super-human characteristics to those who stand out. And we watch, all too often, with glee as they fall from grace, reaffirming the safety that comes from being one face in a sea of faces like ours.

Because I am, despite my averageness, an optimist, I believe that even those we count as exceptional are, in fact, average people who have worked really hard and done exceptional things in ONE OR TWO AREAS. I believe we are all capable to being exceptional at something – all of us.

Think of it this way – for exceptional to exist, so must average. So while we are average in some ways, we are exceptional in another way. Compare yourself to yourself, not to others. You may be average at athletics, but exceptional at visual storytelling. You may be of average height, but exceptional beauty. You may have average intelligence but exceptional hand-eye coordination.

YOU ARE EXCEPTIONAL IN SOME WAY. YOU JUST ARE.

Average is safe. And comfortable. And familiar. And we languish there because the alternative, no matter how badly we want it, is so freaking scary.

I dare you, each of you, to take a good hard look at why you don’t feel exceptional, at what is holding you in place. I bet, if you’re average like me, the only thing in your way is you and your willingness to do the work. 

Do the work. It’s worth it. Exceptional is waiting for you.