You may be aware of the old adage “a jack of all trades, master of none.” Many people have considered this phrase to be a bit of a slight or weakness of average people in a variety of skills but never really mastered something. The oft-forgotten rest of the saying though, ‘but better than a master of one’ says otherwise. It’s basically saying that being moderately skilled in a variety of tasks is better than just being a master of one skill, but completely useless at anything else. Essentially, being average is perfectly fine, and might even be seen as an asset to some.
Here’s why it’s OK to be average.
Statistics Say So
Statistically speaking, most people fall within the range of average aptitude. Take any skill, be it a sport, a craft, a technical skill, and plot a graph of how good everyone is.
With a large enough sample size, odds are you’ll get something similar to a bell curve, where there are a few inferior performers. Then, you’ll get a nice upward curve, which then dips back down as you get towards those with higher aptitude.
The bell shape basically indicates that there are far more average people than those who are completely inept at the skill and have completely mastered it. About 60% of the population is average at any given skill.
This bell curve can be applied to just about anything, height, weight, IQ, skills, etc. So statistically speaking, odds are you are average at more things than you’re not.
We’re All Average at Most Things
Now, let’s look at some famous people in their fields like baseball players, actors, and scientists. They may seem like they’re perfect in every way. But that’s only because we mostly see them in the context of what they are best at.
With the exception of maybe Davinci, hand an engineer or scientist a paintbrush, and you’ll find most are extremely average when it comes to artistic skill.
We all have things we’re naturally good at or bad at, and things in between. Just because you’re not as good at something as someone else, doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of your skill level. Your skill in one specific area isn’t what defines you, but your aggregate strengths and weaknesses.
We mostly look at people in context at what they’re most proficient at, so don’t let your lack of skill in comparison get you down.
The Media Filter
The other big issue with our self-esteem and feeling like being average is a bad thing is the way we’ve been conditioned to measure ourselves up to what we see most.
Thanks to television and the internet, we have access to so much information, and the majority of what is shown in the media is regarding the outliers, either the greatest of the greats or the worst of the worst. Look at how many fail compilations you’ll find on video sharing sites or television shows, or for the other extreme, just look at any professional sports channel.
The average joe doesn’t get nearly as much attention, simply because being average from a media sales perspective just doesn’t draw in people. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not profitable from a marketing perspective.
Comparing yourself to only what you see in media is only going to make you more self-conscious since you’re comparing yourself to the extremes. It leads us to believe that exceptional is the new normal, so we all feel entirely inadequate.
The Great Contradiction
A common theme through media is that everyone is destined to be great, exceptional, and has a grand purpose to fulfill. The inherent flaw with this statement is the whole definition of being exceptional and unique is that you’re exceptional compared to others.
If everyone is exceptional, then everyone is just average in comparison to everyone else.
The sooner you can accept the fact that your life will be mostly average, the sooner you can pursue the things you want to minus the pressure of being at your absolute best. You’d be able to start living your life without judgement.
Stop worrying so much about how mediocre or average you are. Accept it. Everyone is average at most things, and start doing things because you want to, not because society tells you that you have to excel at everything you do.