Ask yourself if you would like to be described as being ‘average’ and it might not be your first choice. Average might feel like a vague insult, a reflection on yourself that you’d rather not have. When we use the term ‘average’ we don’t see much that is positive about it.
What is ‘average’?
By definition ‘average’ speaks of a central or typical value across a data set. Average comes with connotations of mediocrity, not setting a very high standard, lacking motivation or even having given up. Average has little to make it feel desirable, but that doesn’t mean that we should write it off.
Perfection: The opposite of average?
Modern society, especially in the world of social media, seems to have no time for average. We are encouraged to seek perfection, to rise above what is seen as average and to strive and compete for a perfect existence. Flaws and defects wont do, only achieving a level that cannot be exceeded is acceptable.
In writing this we are presented with the thought that perfection is very subjective and is also very hard to achieve. We all carry a sense of who we are and the pursuit of perfection is something that we mostly define for ourselves.
Our sense of what is perfect is tied to our sense of self. Early messaging that one isn’t good enough and the associated feelings of inadequacy can make perfection feel appealing. By being perfect we compensate for our inadequacies and are beyond reproach. One becomes insulated from the feelings of judgement from oneself and others. Perfection and the pursuit of it become the solution to challenging feelings.
To always want to be perfect means that we never have to consider what failure feels like. Part of being human is that we are sentient beings and not merely machines carrying out limited functions in a repetitive fashion. To be simplistic we aren’t and can’t be all-knowing and therefore we are flawed and failure is possible.
The pursuit of perfection can impact our personal relationships and deny us the opportunity to explore and be curious. If perfection becomes a motivating factor how can be relate to others when we are managing our own anxiety around feelings of being judged. If it feels unbearable to think of failure how do we learn and develop?
Thoughts of being ‘average’ and psychotherapy
Considering how thoughts of being perfect can impact our life and relationships we might think of how we can move away from this high standard. To be less than perfect, we have to consider how we tolerate what has previously felt unbearable. The thought that it’s ok not to be perfect is a challenge and can expose one to questions of self critical, judgemental feelings that have been defended against. Psychotherapy offers the opportunity to think with a therapist and explore what is behind such feelings. Can we challenge this unconscious sense that anything other than perfection is bearable? Can we be ‘average’ and be happy with that?
Being an advocate for ‘average’ is not about promoting mediocrity, it’s a reaction to the rigour of perfection and a way of finding a more compassionate sense of self that can be at ease with and maybe even enjoy.
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Further reading by David Work –