Why We Hate The Idea of Being Average

I want you to take a moment to ask yourself how you would feel if someone referred to you as average?

Most likely you would feel quite insulted.

None of us like to view ourselves as being average.  

As a society, we have become obsessed, with how we compare in relation to the average.

As a culture, we have elevated people’s ambitions, to the point where we are raised to believe we can all be exceptional, if we just work hard enough at it.

In fact, studies have shown most people rate themselves as “better than average” across various different traits which is statistically impossible.

On a scale of 1-10, perhaps you would rate yourself a 7.

On a scale of 1-10, perhaps you would rate most OTHERS a 5.

We don’t mind assigning the title of average to other people but we don’t want to be considered average ourselves.

The reality is most of us are more or less average—average looking, of average intelligence, making about an average salary. And so on and so forth. Maybe some of us are above average in one aspect or another but few of us are far above average across the board in all facets of life.

Yet why is it so easy to look at others and recognize this statistical fact but few of us can admit to ourselves the many ways in which we are average?

The reason is what psychologists call illusory superiority. 

Illusory superiority is the tendency to overestimate one’s positive qualities and capabilities, and to underestimate one’s negative qualities, relative to others.

It is something we all do from time to time. And for the most part it is a great way to protect one’s mental health and self-esteem…if not taken to the extreme.

Looks at all the ways you may engage in this behavior:

Ever notice how you judge yourself by your “intentions” but judge others by their behavior?

Blame others for negative events instead of looking how your behavior played a factor?

Credit yourself with earning an “A” but blame the professor if you earned a “C?”

How you emphasize other people’s negative qualities but highlight your own positive qualities?

Give yourself credit for a top month sales record but blame the economy when your sales are on the decline?

How you make excuses for yourself but then judge others harshly when the same exact thing happens to them?

This self-enhancing bias is in play whenever you seek to excuse your failures as something beyond your control and attribute your successes to your own great character.

Human psychology, being what it is, is to always try to figure out a way to give yourself an edge over others. No one wants to see themselves as an Average Joe. Or Jane.


But being average does not mean you are a failure.

If anything, there are many advantages to being average. Even good things taken to the extreme become undesirable.

Ambition…too much turns into greed, too little turns into failure

Conscientiousness….too much turns into a people pleaser, too little into a selfish jerk

Sociability…too much into an attention seeker, too little into anti-social

Work ethic….too much into a workaholic, too little results in the unemployment line

Confidence….too much turns into arrogance, too little into self-consciousness

If you want to be healthy, avoiding many physical and psychological illnesses, you want to be average.

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And the reality is most of us LIVE average lives.

Which is good because the world caters to those of us who live ordinary lives.

People who think being average means that they will never improve their life, or achieve any greatness in their life, have a really unhealthy mindset.

Once you accept being average, you will be happier. More productive. More satisfied with your life.

When you accept being average, you explore and give things a try. Because you are not caught up in trying to be perfect or extraordinary, which limits your willingness to even try.

If you let go of the pressure that you have to achieve some sort of greatness in order to achieve a “fulfilling” life, you may find a new appreciation for all the ordinary, average things in life.

If I felt I had to be an extraordinary writer to begin a blog, I would never be able to start a blog.

But I feel okay with being a more or less average writer who is passionate about the subject I write about.

Acceptance of being average, will give you many things to explore, without the pressure of needing to be exceptional.

So here’s to being average! If you find any grammar or spelling mistakes, I am not Mark Twain, and this is not the New York Times!


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