It’s a strange fact of human existence that we can make accurate assessments about stuff all around us, yet utterly misjudge our own value. Usually, it takes a healthy outside observer — a happy client, a friend, a lover — to speak truth to our foggy self-vision.
This gets even trickier if we happen to be surrounded by people who make us feel less than, unintentionally or otherwise. Nowadays, everyone seems to be trapped in the highly curated bubble of social media self-promotion, so it’s very easy to arrive at the conclusion that we’re small potatoes in comparison with everybody else.
Well, I’ve got good news for you. You are pretty darn normal and thoroughly okay.
Somewhere along the way, Americans got it into our heads that being average is a shameful thing. In order to stand out, in order to be all we ought, we should be extraordinary, multi-hyphenate, and ever upwardly-mobile. Our teeth should sparkle and our kitchens shine bright and our hair should be unicorn hair and we should all be #girlbosses by the time we’re 30 years old. Show me a person who looks like that, and I’ll show you a person with inherited business contacts and a team of well-paid stylists, assistants, doctors, and nannies. Nobody is doing it all. As Phil Hartman said on the underrated 90s sitcom, Newsradio, “Spare me your half-truths and gorilla dust.”
Hilariously, recent studies show that nearly 70% of Americans believe that they personally are above average. Let the math of that sink in for a minute. When people ask me how I’m doing, and I say okay, I’ve even heard a few of them reply, “Just okay?” More than once! As if being “okay” simply isn’t good enough. Millions of people would kill to be “just okay” on any given day! In a non-neurotic worldview, being okay is a goal, not a fail.
The problem is, when everything gets overhyped like this, the real ways each of us shines can get obscured fairly quickly. Einstein famously said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” If you are currently stuck in a pattern of feeling just this way, it’s time to get out of the tree and into an environment where you can move with grace and intuition.
Sometimes the tree is other people. At one point in my life, I spent a great many years feeling rather unlovely in a variety of ways, and this feeling was quietly but consistently reinforced by several people around me. Life intervened, and I found myself in totally new circumstances, surrounded by new people who not only wanted what I was selling (so to speak,) but had formed a waitlist. I quickly learned the value of my own currency and never looked back. Life is just too short to be surrounded by half-blind trash-talkers.
Get to know your own currency. Start spending time with people who share your priorities and interests. Pursue the things that delight you, and you’ll find whole worlds of opportunities and contacts and adventures opening up. Then give yourself permission to be adequate in all other ways, and revel in the peace of mind that only properly focused energy can provide. Because being okay . . . is fabulous.
Now get out there and conquer your world, you genius fish.