We are currently living in an age of exceptionalism. If we aren’t bombarded by images of people living their best life, swanning around the world on fancy holidays (pre-Covid) or making millions in start-ups, we are told that we have to make our mark in the world in whatever way we can. Why is it somehow not enough for us just to be average anymore?
Standards have even been raised in movies in recent years – superheroes have dominated the box office, with their drool-worthy skills (and physiques) and talent to save the world/mankind in the space of two hours or so. It seems we’re not even content with watching films about average people doing average things.
But seriously, women in particular are exposed to this expectation of exceptionalism. There are stories every day about women who have achieved the impossible “against all odds”. When we’re younger, we see loads of articles telling us “what you have to achieve before you hit 30”. Then, when we settle down and have kids, we’re faced with stories about “supermums who do it all”. Even when we choose to relax and think of retiring, we can’t hide from stories about “women who didn’t let age/retirement get in their way of achieving success”.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and most of the world was in lockdown, the internet was flooded with stories about people who achieved something while they were staying at home. There were those who became accomplished cooks/bakers, others who threw themselves into charity work, and some who turned their hobbies into successful businesses.
While these are all – rightly – inspiring stories that deserve attention, it can leave the rest of us feeling deflated if we haven’t gone viral or had a profile written up about us in the media. For example, most of us spent lockdown on the couch, bingeing on Netflix. And many of us are content with having a job we don’t mind doing, earn enough to make a decent living, and are happy in our relationships without feeling the need to constantly boast about our partners. Not exactly exceptional lives by any standard, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. However, sometimes it can seem like we’re not doing enough to truly matter in this day and age.
So how do we tell women it’s okay to be average?