5/12/15

The Cult to Averageness and the Persecution of Excellence



You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you have to go out every day and live up to that.
Michael Jordan
The last few weeks, we have seen social media buzzing with the wonders of the “Dad-Body” as the new fad in male body types. In most cases, I usually ignore internet fads, as they tend to be as relevant as they are permanent. Yet in this case, I found it more amusing than ever, as this fad in particular, and its resulting discussion, placed yet again the limelight on an aspect of society that has grown within social media’s ability to give the masses a voice;

The Cult to Average and the Persecution of Excellence.

The cult of Average is this idea that we are all good enough. And that’s true, we are. We see it in every aspect, ranging from beauty to intelligence, from financial success to physical fitness. It’s the idea that we are perfect just as we are, and there is no real need to try to be better. It gets to the point where people expect applause and adulation simply for resisting the need to be better! And that’s where it gets really messed up.

In an attempt to resist the “social pressures” to be better, they will condemn anyone who chooses to be better. We see this when in our discourse of “all bodies are beautiful” the follow up is basically “except those who make an effort to look good. They deserve our hate.”  The same goes into every other aspect. We need to demonize anyone who’s successful, anyone who looks good, anyone who’s educated, and the list goes on. We see it in the generalized idea that anyone with physical beauty or fitness must be a narcissist, that genius is accompanied by arrogance or that financial success can only be achieved by having no moral standards.

The amazing thing about this social condemnation of excellence is how being above average is only acceptable when it comes accompanied with acceptable flaws, as if the flaws compensate for the additional efforts of the person. We see it in the socially awkward genius, or the dumb, but lovable, jock, or the clumsy beauty.

All of these negative aspects are assigned to excellence because excellence exposes the averageness of others. Nobody is born in excellence, that’s the result of discipline, dedication, and a lot of effort. The problem is that the same people who profess not being superficial only see the superficial picture. They neither see nor care to see the work that lead to excellence. It’s easy to assume that beauty, physical fitness, or intelligence is only the result of genetics or that artistic or athletic skills are the result of natural talent, or that financial success is the result of getting an inheritance. This attitude only serves as an excuse to minimize the work and effort of those who achieve excellence.

Genetics, natural talent, and, even to a degree, inheritance only benefit you at the starting point. What counts is what you do with what you have. That’s what determines how far you can go. Let’s stop celebrating averageness as the best we can achieve as individuals. Stop assuming that the limitations society places on you are the highest standards you deserve to put on yourself. Effort, discipline, and self-sacrifice will always trump the small minds and insecurities of others.