Embracing Mediocrity

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LilBee91
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Embracing Mediocrity

Postby LilBee91 » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:12 pm

I'm not quite sure if this warrants its own thread, but I've been thinking about this topic for a while now and wondered what people thought.

It seems to me that many people feel the need to downplay their successes and/or good situation in life, particularly when it comes to grades or income levels. Personally, I hate public acknowledgement for my grades. Or at least anything that singles me out. I have no issue being posted on a Dean's List or having a little asterisk next to my name for graduating with honors, because there are lots of other students in that same boat and no one is pointing me out in particular. My friends who come from wealthy families get really uncomfortable when someone mentions their amount of property or the half-gym they built or all the toys they have and vacations they take. They get defensive, saying that their family wasn't always rich or that their parents don't actually help them out that much.

It seems to me like a lot of people are ashamed of their good luck or their natural talent, and I don't quite understand why this is. I'm sure it's largely due to the fact that they just want to fit in. They don't want to be excluded from a group or treated differently because they're rich or they do well on tests or they just happened to be born with a perfect body. We try so hard to make ourselves fit into the "average" mold that we almost deny the things that makes us who we are. Even Pweb, in our beauty vs. brains thread, seemed more inclined to choose the trait that would make us more accepted, rather than the trait we value most. It's like we can't be proud of things we don't feel we worked enough for, so we compensate by cutting those things down and making them seem less important. We don't want to appear cocky, so we beat ourselves down. Those who work really hard to achieve something often feel no shame in acknowledgement. Everyone loves to see the not-so-good student do really well on the test. But the guy who always gets A's? No one likes that guy. Everyone loves the rags-to-riches stories. But the kids born to wealth? Spoiled brats. We love the ugly ducklings and the ladies who drop 200 pounds. But the girls who have always been beauty queens? Bimbos and witches. If you don't struggle to get it, you don't deserve what you have.

Is this just something I do, or do you guys do it do? Why do you think that is? Is it even that bad of a thing? Does it actually prevent the jealousy and exclusion people try to avoid? Or does it make you seem even more cocky, as you belittle the successes of others along with your own success?
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Re: Embracing Mediocrity

Postby Eaquae Legit » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:20 pm

We try so hard to make ourselves fit into the "average" mold that we almost deny the things that makes us who we are. Even Pweb, in our beauty vs. brains thread, seemed more inclined to choose the trait that would make us more accepted, rather than the trait we value most. It's like we can't be proud of things we don't feel we worked enough for, so we compensate by cutting those things down and making them seem less important. We don't want to appear cocky, so we beat ourselves down.
I thought I was being moderately arrogant in that thread. My statement that I'd prefer some extra beauty stemmed from the fact that I believe myself smart enough to not need a whole lot more on top of my native gift.
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Re: Embracing Mediocrity

Postby Luet » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:55 pm

We try so hard to make ourselves fit into the "average" mold that we almost deny the things that makes us who we are. Even Pweb, in our beauty vs. brains thread, seemed more inclined to choose the trait that would make us more accepted, rather than the trait we value most. It's like we can't be proud of things we don't feel we worked enough for, so we compensate by cutting those things down and making them seem less important. We don't want to appear cocky, so we beat ourselves down.
I thought I was being moderately arrogant in that thread. My statement that I'd prefer some extra beauty stemmed from the fact that I believe myself smart enough to not need a whole lot more on top of my native gift.
Ditto to Ali. I do think that I am quite a bit above average in the intelligence department. I think I'm about average looks-wise, so I would definitely prefer to gain more there. But I'm actually only willing to say that about my intelligence here because I feel like you guys are my peers in this regard. When I am with my real life friends, who are more average in intelligence, I would not admit that I think I am smarter than average because I don't want to sound arrogant or make people feel badly.
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Re: Embracing Mediocrity

Postby neo-dragon » Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:12 pm

For the most part, I take great pride in natural abilities and talents. I just try not to come off as arrogant, or make people feel bad when I know they've had to work harder at achieving something than I have, or haven't been able to achieve it at all. We've all got out strengths and weaknesses, so I don't see anything wrong with being proud of our strengths while trying not to make others feel insecure about their weaknesses. In a way, being overly modest is just as bad as bragging because refusing to acknowledge a blessing that is readily apparent to others is just as belittling in my eyes.
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Re: Embracing Mediocrity

Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:14 pm

Even the best and brightest of us can't live on our own. We depend on on each other for day to day and life-defining moments. Stand out too much, seem too superior, and you risk jealousy and resentment. Even in hunter-gatherer societies, when someone brings in a big kill, even if they routinely are outperforming their peers, hunters have been observed playing down and being modest about their skills.

After all, if in high school or college you're competing for awards, honors, spots in research programs or literary publishing, you don't want to be so much better or so obviously better that your competitors realize even small acts of sabotage ranging from simple social exclusion to outright attack can be hugely beneficial to their chances. Even chimpanzees have been observed hiding their abilities from competitive peers. It's such an old game it's ingrained in our emotions.

Aiming for "average" or mediocre is only one way of dealing with it. It's probably the most obvious and the easiest which is why it's so widely employed, but there's a historically persistent minority who learn to exceed their peers while either appearing to or actually making their superiority beneficial to their peers, and we love these people. We don't like the guy who gets A's and buggers off to do his own thing, but we love the straight-A student who tutors others. We love rich kids who use the cars their parents paid for to give rides to less fortunate friends or who make big donations to school fundraisers. We love beauty queens who help their friends with fashion without being condescending about it.

We degrade those who use their abilities only to their own benefit because if we don't, and we leave them to take everything they could unobstructed, we'd be left out in the cold. Teachers don't pick the smartest kid to be club officers if they've got a (deserved or not) reputation as anti-social or selfish. It's not the struggling or the "deservedness" of their luck or talent, it's whether or not they use it in a way that's beneficial to us that determines how we feel about them.
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Re: Embracing Mediocrity

Postby zeroguy » Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:32 pm

Is this just something I do, or do you guys do it do? Why do you think that is?
I've had some people in early schooling react negatively when they found out that my grades were pretty good. I don't think it's jealousy or anything... it was just showing that you're different; maybe part of a different crowd.

People can be really annoying if they flaunt their positives too much. I've never seen someone I was annoyed by by just being too humble. So, socially, there's never really any reason to promote yourself... well, that's not true. If you're trying to impress some people with something specific I guess that works, but... for just hanging out with people and shooting the s***, it never seemed like a good thing to do.

Also, if there's something I'm good at, nothing breeds contentment and undermines motivation for improvement like praise.
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Re: Embracing Mediocrity

Postby elfprince13 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:48 pm

Sometimes even when you want to be, it can be damn hard to pretend to be normal/mediocre long enough to fool anyone for social benefits, and there certainly are benefits to people seeing you as normal. In academic settings, I've found that a lot of camaraderie is derived from a sense of shared hardship. Nobody takes your commiserations seriously if your grades are 25-30 points higher than the class average (this is particularly vicious in small classes where an announcement of the mean grade on a particular assignment instantly reveals whether or not someone bucked the curve). Ultimately, I've found it works a lot better to just be myself, and make friends with the people who aren't put off by my differences. If you aren't comfortable with your gifts, you make yourself an easier target for the resentful.


[edit]
Is this just something I do, or do you guys do it do? Why do you think that is?
I've had some people in early schooling react negatively when they found out that my grades were pretty good. I don't think it's jealousy or anything... it was just showing that you're different; maybe part of a different crowd.
I think this hits at the heart of the problem. I also think a lot of the proper response to this thread could be found with a handful of quotes from the Ender Quartet. Graff's "There's only one way to make them stop hating you", and Demosthene's Hierarchy come to mind as appropriate summaries of the entire content of this (my) post, for example.
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Re: Embracing Mediocrity

Postby powerfulcheese04 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:01 pm

I came to the conclusion early on that I am academically remarkably gifted and that I am OK with that. And that anyone who isn't doesn't need to be a part of my world.

It seems like middle school or so is when that decision point comes up for most people. Especially girls. You could either be smart or you could jump into the rat race to be "cool" (and probably just fail miserably at it over and over and over.) I picked smart and I think my life was significantly better for it.

It took a little while to find a balance between bragging and just being proud of my accomplishments. It's OK to be proud of yourself when you do well.
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