Recently, mediocrity has been a trending topic in my before-bed debates. I simply cannot run away from it: Neither from the question of its meaning nor from including it to describe myself. So, I thought it would be valuable to externalize this thought in an attempt to cure my melancholy, and only melancholy because to cure mediocrity would be too pretentious, and the Arts & Culture section is already pretentious enough. You have no idea how useful it is to use this section as a monthly therapy – it saves me money. Sorry for treating you as a mean and not as an end, but I am mediocre.
It is easy to fall into temptation and think of ourselves as above the average. In fact, most of us do. A study conducted in the 80s in the US found that 93% of the researched people put their driving ability at above-average levels, the so-called “illusory superiority”. This trend continues into several other areas such as cognitive ability, popularity, emotional intelligence, and mental health. For instance, if you are taking your time to read the Arts & Culture section of an unknown student newspaper, you might think you are one of a kind, and maybe you are. But it is most likely it is just another impossible probability. My fair guess of why we have this illusory superiority comes down to two truths: we don’t know ourselves, and we don’t know others well.
It is very easy to be overconfident when we compare ourselves to the image we have of others. We connect so little with one another that we have only a shallow understanding of their capabilities. Furthermore, the characteristics of others that stick in our memory are often the worst ones. We select which of their traits are relevant to explain someone, but by doing so, we distort the real person into an image that comparatively makes us feel normal. It is very common as well to accept another person’s talents, but only if underlining how much training went into crafting that skill, and concluding that if you were to practice as much as them, you would be even more successful. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
To continue our discussion, let’s do an experiment: think of yourself as belonging to the tribe of the average. It is probably particularly hard to put ourselves in this mental state because we have been told we are unique since the day we are born. This is particularly true with newer generations. As the world becomes harsher, parents try to compensate by creating a softer environment at home. However, by doing so, they prevent their children from having a real awareness of themselves and their surroundings. I got this false impression of my place in humanity, thinking that I born to be another Leonardo da Vinci or Isaac Newton: I just had to choose which path I wanted.
Maybe it is part of our naiveté to experience that special moment when we are young, and that I am being unfair with the current parental education. However, it is essential to come back to reality after exposing ourselves to the world. Sooner or later we will see that we cannot be anything we want and that the other 7.7 billion people are also competing for their special place on earth. I believe some of us have already realized this. A recent study shows that there is another psychological distortion becoming very common: Illusory inferiority, a false feeling of being less than average. But this one deserves a whole other essay.