“You know what I’ve realized?  I’ve concluded that it’s okay to just be average.”

I heard this from a client a few weeks ago. 

He continued on to say, “For so long I’ve been worried about my image.  What others thought about me.  I would leave every interaction wondering whether I’d said the right thing.  Worried that I didn’t.  Worried about the interaction.  Did I dazzle them enough?  Wondering if they were seeing the smart and successful attributes in me that I wanted them to see.  I had to get them to realize I was special, a star.  Was I successful in getting the sale or the deal?  Wondering how if it hadn’t gone well, how I could later manipulate the situation to get the outcome I wanted.”

(We all do a version of this, just in case you were wondering if this is unique.)

“Sounds exhausting.”  I replied.

“Extremely.”  He confirmed.

“And now you’re realizing it’s okay to just be average.  How does that feel?”  I asked.

“I feel free.”

I smiled. 

It reminded me of the moment when I realized it too.  And the feeling of serenity and intense peace that came with it.  I was so jazzed about the revelation that I even broke out into poetic genius and wrote a poem about it – The Joy of Being Average.

It wasn’t a very good poem.  It didn’t even rhyme.  I even tried to find it to insert it into this blog because I thought that would make me look quite clever, but my filing system must be pretty crap because it’s disappeared.  But I swear I wrote it. 

The Pursuit of Special is Stressful

The image management aspect of trying to prove ourselves is exhausting.  I got told growing up I was smart.  I was special.  I believed it.  I so wanted it to be true.  And it was all very well intended appreciation meant to lift me up from family members, teachers, friends and colleagues.  But then I had to prove it.  Then I had to live up to it. 

I spent a lot of time thinking about it.  My image, who I wanted to be, who I wanted people to think that I was.  An international woman of mystery, a courageous trailblazer who had conquered the globe and lived and worked in multiple countries, started my own successful businesses – twice.  I carefully crafted and perfected these stories, used to spend a lot of time thinking about them for when I would give a speaking engagement.  It had to be just right.  It had to dazzle the audience.  I had a whole wall in my office filled with degrees, certifications, accomplishments.  I ran out of room for them eventually and started putting them in the bathroom. 

It’s not a surprise I did this.  It’s not a surprise my client did something similar.  Our context sets us up for it, and we unconsciously fall straight into the trap.  If you look on social media it’s everywhere – messages that we need to be living big, be leading our best authentic life, step into our power, aim high, be great, set BIHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals, just in case you weren’t familiar with that wonderful acronym) and pursue them with incredible zeal when our feet hit the rug at 5 am every morning, just after we’ve done our morning affirmations and yoga stretches.  Then we need to carefully curate it and share it all on Instagram.  And all before 11 am.

True humility is knowing who you are and who you aren’t.  And owning the whole beautiful mess.  Then and only then are you grounded in self-worth.  Which looks slightly different than blowing smoke up your butt. 

Coaching Questions for Thought

  • Which unpleasant parts of me do I still reject?
  • How can I honor all the parts of me – my strengths and my weaknesses?
  • How might I have created an image that I’m trying to aspire to?  If I let go of that and embraced being average, what would it free me up to do or try?
  • What would happen if I let go of the grasping and just allowed myself to rest in the simple joy of being average?

Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

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  1. Ian Hallett February 22, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you for this! The interesting thing is…. as a part of my job, I read lots of articles from very famous people on the topics you cover… and yours are always the best!

  2. Shelley Pernot March 5, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    High praise Ian coming from you! Thank you!