The upside of being average

 

In our culture, there is an idealization of the special or extraordinary person. At a personal level, many experience a sense of lack so we latch onto this idea of being or becoming someone special in an attempt to compensate for it. This also drives consumption since advertisers promise specialness through clothes, cars, and things in general, and special experiences like certain vacations, restaurants and so on.

How can we examine this wish to be special, famous, or extraordinary?

Examining the average and special

One way is to look at the the upside of being mediocre and in the average range, and perhaps – to the extent we have experience with it – the downsides of being special.

What’s the upside of being not famous, not extraordinary, and in the average range?

It makes it easier for me to see that we are all in the same boat. It makes it easier to connect with and understand others, and have genuine empathy.

Others are more likely to see me as their equal and it’s more of a meeting between equals. Any difference in staus or role in soceity doesn’t come between us.

I don’t have to live up to a certain image or role in order to maintain some special status. I can live more anonymously and without being scrutinized in public.

Perhaps most important, being within the average range does not preclude what’s most important for me. It does not preclude a deeply meaningful life, love, insights. It doesn’t precule being of assistance and helping others and supporting life.

And what’s the downsides of being special or extraordinary?

I’ll go back to the few instances I have experienced this, and also what I saw when I was the student of a famous artist and later the student of a wannabe rock-star type Zen master, and what I have heard and seen from others and in the media.

If you are extraordinary or famous, people tend to put you up on a pedestal. They make you special in their minds. They experience a separation from you. They see you as an image more than a real person. They idealize you or demonize you. They want something from you just because you are seen as special.

If they seek you out and want to be your friend, you cannot be certain about their motivation. Some may want to get to know you just because you are special or famous.

If you are famous, you’ll be scrutinized. The media will write about you, and often any little thing, and sometimes things that are not true. They will try to find scandals. They will interview people around you about you, whether you want or not. I imagine you’ll wake up in the morning wondering if or what someone has written about you.

If you are famous, you can’t be out in public as yourself. You always have to think of your image and how people see you.

Being extraordinary or famous does not take care of our troubles or insecurities, as innumerable stories in the media shows us. Extraordinary and famous people have their troubles, as we all do.

These examples are a little simplistic and general. It helps to find examples to a specific situation, and you may find some that are more true for you. But it’s a start of seeing through the illusion of worshipping the special, extraordinary, and famous.

Also, is it true we are not already special?

As any good mum will tell us, we are all special. It’s not just a platitute. It’s true. We – and all beings – are a unique way for the universe and life to experience itself.

Examine the lack in us

Another approach is to see where the worship of the extraordinary in us comes from. (Most likely, there is some worship of the extraordinary and of fame in ourselves since we live in this culture.)

Often, it comes from a sense of lack in ourselves, and we hope that this will somehow compensate for this. And there is a fear behind all of this.

So we can meet this sense of lack on us and the fear that comes with it. Feel the sensations. Listen to its stories. Get to know it. See what it really wants. Give it what it really wants. (Often love, respect, patience, understanding.) And see through the stories it has when they come up and not let them take us over.

If we seek to be special, extraordinary, or famous, it’s often because we hope it will make us feel OK, loved, and admired. Through this, we can take a short-cut and give that to ourselves – and the parts of us that need it – here and now.

At first, it may seem a bit disappointing since we thought we wanted or needed it from others, and perhaps a large number of others. When we explore this, we may find that there is only one who can give us this so it feels deeply satisfying, and that’s ourselves.

In summary…

I can have the most important in life while being average – friendship, family, love, meaning, contentment, contributing to society and nature.

Being extraordinary doesn’t fix most of our human challenges and problems.

And it’s easier and more direct to address any lack in me that fuels a desire to be extraordinary than to try to be extraordinary.

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