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“Mediocre” is the Envied Scourge of Today.

by Twitchy on May 7, 2013

I’m disturbed. This time beyond generally speaking.

There’s a fine line somewhere, dividing the tipping point between the healthy pursuit of our best and the consuming, obsessive need to be better than everyone else. Last week in my post about “success” (Average Is A Dirty Word), I hope I explained this.

Today my news stream is full of folk desperate to be a cut above the rest (at whatever cost). Sometimes they’ve achieved their goals but are still unhappy (surprise). I keep seeing people go to extremes to engineer themselves and their children, into what they believe is superlative. It screams of performance anxiety. This is quite different to wanting to do ourselves proud. Mixed up messages and extremes that make my head spin.

We won’t tolerate a whiff of  “mediocrity” (whatever that is). Lest we drown amongst the dull masses, we must stand out. That’s okay; there’s a whole raft (see what I did there?) of stage/pageant mothers, tiger mothers, crazed tennis coach parents and baby tutoring, preschool administration bribers looking out for the next generation. Their offspring’s lives are mapped out from birth.

”I feel for children who aren’t allowed to be children. If children feel pressured their self esteem and confidence drops and they aren’t able to be who they naturally are. Then you start to see emotional issues and challenging behaviours.” – Michelle Gujer, Manager of the Docklands program, Gowrie Victoria*

“Simple activities done at home such as singing, reading books, I spy games, nursery rhymes and sitting with mum to type an email to grandma are richer language experiences than formal classes and flashcards.

”You can train babies, like you can train a dog, to respond to certain words, but why would you want to do that?” she says. ”There is no advantage because children first need to develop a conceptual knowledge to understand and that comes with myriads of experience. Until you can play with language, you can’t read or write.”
Bridie Raban, honorary professor of early childhood development at the University of Melbourne*

I don’t like Tall Poppy Syndrome either. Once again, a side-effect of people so displeased with themselves they need to cut others down for achieving. Yet here’s a Poppy who might benefit from a dose of humility. Today’s Daily Mail and Herald Sun both carry stories by the wannabe-mediocre Amy Molloy:

It’s hard being a lonely and joyless high-achiever. I wish I could be mediocre. 

“Some people can struggle to be around the super-successful,” she writes. “They think I’m looking down on them and maybe sometimes, subconsciously, I am. My very high standards are not limited to my professional life.”

But this reads to me like Amy might struggle to be around herself:

“She goes on to complain that “being successful is torturous. It’s isolating — you lose weekends, holidays and (if you’re not careful) your social life.***

Boasting that she “makes more money than she needs”, Molloy laments that “within weeks of every promotion or pay rise I become agitated, as my feet itch to move forward”.**

If our achievements are not sufficient, we can always resort to changing our appearance… completely. Here is Vanilla (oh the irony) Chamu, a Japanese model.

Blogpost 060513 Mediocre Vanilla Chamu 1 Vanilla Chamu has undergone more than 30 procedures in a bid to look like a ‘living French doll’
 (Taken from the UK Daily Mail, as per link)

blogpost mediocre 060513 Vanilla Chamu 2

Vanilla before and after. (Image from the UK Daily Mail, as per link above.)

Huh? I hear you thinking. Yes- if the UK Daily Mail reports are correct, these pictures are of the same young Japanese woman, before and after her Caucasianisation. Her own mother wouldn’t recognise her. Finding her natural-born Asian appearance unacceptable, she modelled herself on a “French doll”, nipping and tucking herself into one- and she’s not done yet. If heaven forbid, she dies on the operating table- will she die happy?

Once again I ask is this where we’re headed…next stop: genetic selection? No, I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. Or happy. Just as long as it’s not ugly, or dumb. Or mediocre.

Read More:
* The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/little-learners-in-the-rugrat-race-20130505-2j11q.html#ixzz2SUSSJ9l7;
The Age http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/is-your-baby-ready-to-read-at-three-months-20130505-2j1hq.html
**Herald Sun: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/i-wish-i-was-mediocre-like-my-friends-how-i-envy-their-failure-writes-sydneys-amy-molloy/story-e6frf7jo-1226635919602?sv=42cbdfc8c2d22b1a5036e7e1f8b63d6e#.UYc3ttSRZOo
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2319929/A-book-deal-23-More-cash-spend-But-AMY-MOLLOY-says–Being-success-lonely-joyless-I-wish-I-mediocre-like-friends.html
*** Or maybe you took care of that when you labelled your friends ‘mediocre’?

Linking with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee-Anne June 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Love this post, Twitchy…we are on the same page with thoughts on average/mediocrity. The pressure to perform above average is nefarious, as you so powerfully illustrate with the poor, wretched Chamu/Vanilla. I wonder if she’s happy now that she’s freakishly above average..? Thanks for the link to your post, so glad to have read it. :)

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Kelly Exeter May 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I definitely agree with you that all the striving and never arriving (because we’re always looking ahead to the next big thing) is an absolute scourge. Comparison is the thief of joy yet comparison is rife in our world right now :(

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Twitchy May 16, 2013 at 9:40 am

I love the truth and power in those words, comparison is the thief of joy. Thanks for reminding me; no truer words were spoken about one’s motivations and for me, a deep truth about additional needs parenting.

Grace May 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I have a confession – I was a high achiever thinking that it was indeed oh, so torturous to be so terribly needed for my multi-lingual skills and IT/sales expertise…bleugh!
What a stupid existence that was.
What comes with mediocracy is a stress-free, grounded life. I’ll take that any day.

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Parental Parody May 11, 2013 at 11:28 am

I admit, I’m disturbed and horrified – but I’m also sad for her. To go to such extremes makes me doubt she’ll ever be satisfied, let alone actually happy. My Miss7 is suddenly becoming very aware of image. Not so much looks or her physical self, but of what she wears and making sure she doesn’t stand out from her friends. This also makes me sad for her, but in a different way. I completely understand the will to fit in and be the same as your friends in order to be accepted (in the mind of a 7yr old) – but, at the same time, how does a 7yr old girl already think that blending and being the same as everyone else is what she wants and what will make her happy? Argh…the mother anxiety of it all! Can only imagine what Vanilla’s mother must think….

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Deb @ home life simplified May 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Shocking!!! People are crazy.

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Shari May 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Wow – those are very frightening images and at the risk of sounding very pedestrian, all that perfectionism would just be too time consuming. Give me the simple life, any day.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

I’m with you. Save the world by all means, but because you want to, not because guilt or someone is making you.

Salz May 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I saw that lady on the news the other day. She’s very creepy. Kinda like the lady who looks like a barbie doll have you seen her?

I admit i do get jealous of others who have achieved things that I want to do but can’t because of money reasons. A woman who used to work in my room as mt assistant in child care now has 2 child care centres of her own. In 4 years she has done something i have been trying to do for over 8 years. Its money and her children are also a lot older than mine and she only has two children. Makes me jealous but I’m still her friend.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

That’s enormously honest of you, Salz. Good luck.

Marti May 7, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Just wrote a minor rant then lost it when I refreshed the page! Damn you ipad!
Basically just said I can’t understand the Amy palaver. I couldn’t even get through the article- self serving and contrived.
Shamu- just too many types of sad.
Where this is headed makes me shudder!
Thanks Twitchy

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

I shudder every day.

Zanni Louise May 7, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I agree with this whole-heartedly Twitchy. Such pressure of self improvement and success does not equal happiness. The happiest communities of people in the world have less focus on external achievements and gains, and focus instead on what they have. I know my happiness as an adult has been greatly been determined by an increase of satisfaction with who I am and what I have rather than what I don’t have. Look up Oliver Burkeman. You will like him I think.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:02 am

Very well put. *Applauds* Thanks for the look up tip.

Robyn (Mrs D) May 7, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Those photos are scary! The poor girl – how awful to feel that insure in yourself that you have to change so much. I wonder if she’s still the same on the inside??? It’s taken me a long time to accept myself for who I am and I think that is one of the biggest lessons that I can pass on to my children – self confidence and acceptance. I want them to be as proud of themselves as I am of them no matter what they do! I hope I manage it! x

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:04 am

Bravo! Raising children as individuals with broadminded awareness and self esteem is one of the most important things we can do. Well done to you for finding your authentic place.

Kevin May 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm

As a Dad of two very little girls the photo makes me sad, and determined that my girls are confident, assured women. I suppose the trick is to do this whilst letting them feel comfortable being themselves and not pushing them to be something they are not.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:05 am

Go Dad! Also a lot of evidence pointing to the importance of Dads’ influence in a growing girl’s self esteem. I know you will do well, you’re already thinking about it. Thanks for visiting.

Robomum May 7, 2013 at 9:54 pm

You’ve opened my eyes!
I don’t know how this is going to sound but I’m going to write it anyway.
I have my own measure of success. I measure myself against certain markers and even certain people. I know where I fit, I worked it out years ago.
As for kids, encouragement is fine, but I don’t understand why people push their kids, be it through sport, arts or education. They’re kids! We’re living our lives, we need to let them live theirs.
Mediocrity, or keeping your head above water, isn’t a bad thing. It demonstrates a certain level of dedication and that’s something to be proud of. If a person can maintain mediocrity in their life then that, in itself, is an achievement.
Give me mediocrity and stability and simple living, any day of the week.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:07 am

There’s nothing wrong with having markers. Goal setting is completely different to constantly wanting to outdo everyone around you for the sake of it. It doesn’t always work in a healthy way. I have decided to champion “Mediocrity”. I think our fear of it drives us to sometimes ill-conceived pursuits.

Kelly HTandT May 7, 2013 at 9:32 pm

What a fantastic post Sharon!
I read a Jodi Picoult novel about an Amish girl, and I never really knew much about the Amish prior to the book. The notion of NOT wanting to stand out, to be the same as everyone else, or ‘plain’ as she called it, just fascinated me. I could see the beauty in it. I would imagine they are a much happier people!
xx

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:07 am

Simplicity! We could all use more of that!

Josefa @always Josefa May 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Those photos are shamefully frightening – society really needs to take a step back and change the perspective. i read that Daily Mail article today and I was not sure if she was being honest, controversial or what? Keep it real. Stay true to your voice. Be happy. In its simplicity it should always work.

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EssentiallyJess May 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm

It’s crazy to think that is the same person. Why would you do that to yourself?
It’s so sad when people can’t be happy with who they, or their children are. Can’t we just be content with being the best ‘us’ we can be?

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Mums Take Five May 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

wow thats rather extreme. i wonder if this has really made her any happier? scary even.

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Kathy May 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Great post! The Shamu story is so sad – such a tragic level of unhappiness with self and pursuit of what? As my kids are Asian (and adopted) I do worry about them feeling like they need to fit in, particularly my (beautiful) daughter. With my son it will probably be about feeling smaller than average. I reckon I could be a poster girl for mediocrity – I feel it is some sort of balance between achieving and just ‘being’ (yin and yang as I blog about). It’s hard not to get caught up in our society that values achievement above all else, but we just need to be ‘happy’ about how we frame success, and ‘content’ regardless. Visiting from IBOT!

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Stacey-Lee May 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Oh my! Those that live in the pursuit of ‘better than everyone’ and ‘my kid can do this and that the best’, as far as I’m concerned, will never be truly happy because there is always someone else who has or can do better. That example of the lady totally unrecognisable after multiple surgeries just goes to show the extremes that people will go to and I bet that with her plans for more changes, she will never be truly happy.

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Janet May 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

PS forgot to say, visiting from #teamIBOT! xxx

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Janet May 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I saw Ita Buttrose & Lisa Wilkinson talking about this on TV this morning – and I was proud of them for their stance of “why can’t we just let kids be kids?” Why all this pressure to have them learning a second language from the cradle, various extra curricular activities etc. Kids need to be able to stop, and dream, and think, and explore, and play, and touch, and smell, and taste, and enjoy, not be raced off to a succession of carefully planned activities each day!

The Asian girl’s “makeover” pictures just make me sad.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:18 am

Thanks Janet for mentioning the kids and their early starts. That would’ve been an interesting discussion with Ita and Lisa. All that you say is exactly what I believe in, thank you.

Emily @ Have a laugh on me May 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I feel so sorry for her, to never feel being her is just enough. It freaks me out my children won’t love and accept who they are and what they’re achieving, I suppose I have to lead the way. Emily

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:16 am

Thank you Emily for also referring to the kids being kids thing! It’s even more important we watch how we raise our children than what individuals do to themselves. Unfortunately when that individual is in the public eye, it sends dodgy messages to a multitude, not just a few small people in your house.

Kate May 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm

This just makes me sad. It makes me sad that people are so unhappy in their own body that they want to change every detail. poor girl :(

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Alex aka WHOA MUMMA! May 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Great post! I completely agree. I wrote about being content being mediocre last year. All that striving, aspiring and motivating to be the best is bloody exhausting.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:10 am

I want to read that :) Go the mediocre!

Rhianna May 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm

This is in line with the Ken doll wanna be they had on the Today show last week. I don’t get it I really really don’t. I just keep telling myself it takes all types

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

Yes it does take all types, but I don’t want to be (or want my kids to be) one of the extremists without commonsense.

iSophie May 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Oh my goodness, why? Why? I just don’t understand it. Perhaps now she feels trapped in her public images and feels she has to keep going to please everyone. I feel very sorry for her, I hope mentally she is in a good place, because I really doubt it.

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Rachel _The VI Blog May 7, 2013 at 8:46 am

This is what happens when someone takes themselves way, WAAAAY too seriously. They become a prat lose their sense of perspective, not to mention their sense of humour. I’d rather keep my sense of humour and embrace mediocrity with open arms :)

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:13 am

Oh I like the sound of your philosophy very much!

Lydia C. Lee May 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

hmmmm, where to begin on this…I think a lot of the adults unhappiness is projected on to the child project. They have to ‘achieve’ because the parent hasn’t.
I had a minor health scare in my 20’s, and after that, my only aim was to be happy. Whenever I said that to people, it was often met with “what the f*ck does that mean?”. It caused both aggression and confusion.
I have a friend who I consider hugely successful. She has her own business that she started from scratch and makes a lot of money – she has a big house in a fancy suburb and the kids go to private school. Yet I think she struggles constantly with ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. She doesn’t seem to be happy with all that she’s achieved because she’s comparing her big house with the even bigger, fancier house down the road…and so on.
If you are a ‘high achiever’ that’s totally fine, but if you aren’t happy, then you lose. End of story.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:13 am

There is a family in Russia who’s young boy was encouraged to body build, against all health professional advice. He looked like a mini Arnold wannabe. But I understand they were poor and sometimes to feed your family you do strange things for media attention. Unfortunately you turn your child into a Victorian sideshow attraction in the process.

Mumabulous May 7, 2013 at 7:43 am

I saw an article on Shamu yesterday and was horrified beyond words. Is it unacceptable to be Asian now? As for Amy, she is welcome to come to Chez Abulous for a few days where I can instruct her on the fine art of mediocrity. I’m sure I could make her mediocre in a way she could be proud.

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Twitchy May 9, 2013 at 11:11 am

We are to be envied. ENVIED I tell you. I could run courses on this too.

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