My husband and I have a joke that his only exceptional quality is that he is markedly unexceptional.
He is the epitome of “average.” I am literally unable to identify him in a crowd.
He is 5’9″.
He has brown hair, brown eyes.
He wears jeans and plaid shirts.
Further, he has mediocre guitar skills. His favorite foods include burgers and pizza. He appreciates a moderately-priced pale ale or lager. The man drives a navy blue Ford Explorer, for goodness’ sake!
(Joke’s on you if you try to creep on him. Good luck!)
So what’s wrong with being average?
Nothing, much of the time.
Everything, some of the time.
“Average” is arbitrary, determined by the qualities and actions of others.
I always run a 5k in about 21 minutes.
Depending on my competition, I could come in 1st or I could come in last. Should I be any prouder of my 1st place win than my last place loss? What if my slowest race time earned me 3rd and my best race time earned me 899th?
How can I possibly judge my performance or my progress by merely comparing myself to the performance and progress of others?
“Average” gets dangerous when we begin to regard it as a standard of acceptability.
When we compare ourselves only to others, actual quality standards are often ignored.
The average American has $3,600 of credit card debt. You wanna be average?
Call me crazy, but I’d rather aim low for that “standard.”
We cannot allow ourselves to be held to standards determined by averages.
We cannot let social norms cloud our view of what is right, or make hazy what should clearly be defined, or blur the lines of acceptability we have drawn for ourselves.
Just because it’s average doesn’t mean it’s adequate.
Just because it’s the norm doesn’t mean it should be tolerable.
[Apply this as you will to the numerous spheres of your life. I’m going to take it in the direction of health and fitness.]
I know that I’m about to tread on sensitive ground right now, so let me preface the next few paragraphs with this: You are enough. You are worthy. You are entirely permissible exactly as you are right now (and always).
Chances are, you’re far more wonderful than average in a bunch of ways, and–I hate to break it to you–far less wonderful than average in a handful of ways, too.
I merely intend to caution you not to aim for average but to aim for improvement and, ultimately, to evaluate yourself against unchanging standards of quality.
If you have an 48-inch waist circumference and that is 2 inches smaller than it was last month–you better not, for a single second, dwell on the fact that your waist is larger than average.
In the same vein, if you spend 13 hours a day sitting–“just like an average American”–or consume 11% of your daily calories from fast food–“just like an average American,” you have earned no bragging rights.
Being an “average American” puts you among the ranks of some pretty unhealthy individuals–women with a high-risk waist circumference of 39.7 inches or men with a high-risk neck circumference of 16 inches.
The average American adult is overweight or obese. The average American adult will die of heart disease. Having hypertension is very nearly the norm!
When it comes to diet and exercise, STOP comparing yourself to family and friends–and any other “average” folk–whose habits have become socially acceptable but yet are utterly impermissible according to objective criteria.
You want to engage in average behavior? You should expect average results.
Look at the average energy level of those around you.
Look at the average physical prowess of those around you.
Look at the average body composition of those around you.
Look at the average quality of life of those around you.
These conditions are typically direct consequences of lifestyle decisions.
Do they embody the conditions that you want for yourself?
To offer a slight tweak on the wise words of Thomas Jefferson: “In order to get the results that most people don’t have, you’ve got to do the things that most people don’t do.”
You’ve got to spend a few weeks counting calories.
You’ve got to prioritize working out.
You’ve got to make certain sacrifices.
Is it weird to ask for your burger without the bun? Sure.
Is it weird to go to a bar and order seltzer water? Probably.
It is weird to go to bed at 10 PM so that you can feel great waking up at 6 to workout? The average person might say it is.
But ya know what?
It’s weird to look good, feel good, feel that you look good, and look like you feel good.
Heck, it’s weird to have a healthy BMI!
(And somehow it’s weird to NOT have to take a medication organizer on a day trip?!)
Let me be take this to the crucial point of discomfort: Just because the average American female is a size 16-18 doesn’t indicate anything except for that the average female in the United States is a size 16-18.
Size 16 is not suddenly healthy just because it is now the average.
We might be tempted to redefine our standards of acceptability because the definition of “normal,” the measure of the average, has changed dramatically. It’s certainly tempting for us to say to ourselves, “it’s perfectly normal to be this size!”
Let’s not use comparative measurement for affirmation (beyond, perhaps, the affirmation that indeed there are challenges abounding to which the average person is falling prey.)
Let’s look instead to the objective standards that clearly reveal that a size 16 carries with it a number of risk factors that–although “average”–are not desirable.
Of course, love yourself where you are. As someone who has dealt with issues of body image for as long as I can remember, please, I implore you to believe me when I say that this is NOT about appearance. This is NOT about self-acceptance or value or worthiness (because those are not EVER up for dispute). This is NOT about striving, especially towards unrealistic physique goals.
This is about health. This is about being okay with where you are while working for something better–being okay with your current condition while not being satisfied with something less than you deserve. This is about celebrating your progress as you increase your health (without regard for the progress or regress of others) and continuing to work towards defined, objective standards as indicators of your health.
My final word is to be careful of embracing THE status quo as YOUR status quo–and to beware of accepting “average” with an air of complacency.
When it comes to being an “average American,” in most instances, I’d much rather be the odd one out.
On a completely different note: If you want to work out in less time than average but get better-than-average results, do this:
Set your timer to ding every 30s for 5 minutes. If you’re feelin’ it, repeat twice more in a row or throw in another few rounds throughout your day!
-side plank walk R
-plank mountain climbers
-side plank walk L
-dead bugs, alternating
-30s glute bridge raises R
-dead bugs, alternating
-glute bridge raises L
Then…1 minute of burpees or sprawls to scare off those last remnants of unhealthy body fat!
P.S. This blog post was really something, eh? What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and reactions below!
P.P.S. If you don’t want to be average…if you want to be stronger than average… leaner than average… then check out Pat’s NEW 14 Day Kettlebell Fat Funeral.