Men’s Fear of Mediocrity — Blessing or Curse?

When we compare our life with the glitzy images of success we see on social media, it’s easy to feel mediocre and second-rate. But, as life coach Hans Schumann explains, the chase to become extraordinary may end up doing more harm than good.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The public image of success

We live in a time where we are bombarded daily with success stories of extraordinary individuals:

  • The skinny guy who transformed himself into a fitness model
  • The hedge fund tycoon who bought a £95mill villa.
  • The street sweeper who became a TV celebrity.

The fear of mediocrity

“Mediocrity is my biggest fear.”Robert Downey Jr.

The issue with external referencing

The word “mediocre” comes from the Latin word medius, which means “middle”. Being mediocre means therefore that we are in the middle of something but in the middle of what? It normally implies a comparison with other people and their success. If being “mediocre” is bad, it means that we only have value if we are better than at least 50 percent of others in the same field that we want to excel in.

Whose standard is it, anyway?

There is another issue with comparing yourself to others: there is hardly ever a like-for-like comparison possible. We all have different values, genetics, upbringings, resources, talents and life journeys.

  • You feel inferior to a friend who managed to attend the best university in the country because he had access to funds that you did not.
  • You envy the business success of a friend, but discard the price he had to pay for his wealth. He lost his wife, estranged his kids and abuses alcohol to numb his depression. You only want to have the good stuff, not the downside of his success.
  • You compare yourself with somebody who does not even exist. I know a few men who aspire to be like the macho lawyer Harvey Specter in the TV show Suits. This guy does not exist! He is a fantasy — and, having been a lawyer myself, I can tell you it would not be advisable or possible to run a law firm in the way he does in the show.

Is your ambition love-driven or ego-driven?

The more we focus on comparing ourselves to others, the more we remove ourselves from the love of what we do. Let me explain:

What do you think of people who are “just average”?

If you fear mediocrity, what does this say about the way you view other people who you perceive as “average” or less? Do you judge them for not being good enough? What about a guy in an average job who enjoys a simple life, is a caring father and happily married? Is this worse than being a burned-out millionaire?

Does your fear of mediocrity create good results?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the ambition to be at the top of society may, in fact, create good external results despite my mental health concerns. But sometimes it does not. What I encounter frequently in my coaching practice is that the fear of mediocrity can block a person’s growth through self-doubt, anxiety, and procrastination.

What drives your fear of mediocrity?

The fear of mediocrity is common and in many ways natural to human beings. At the root of this fear is a craving to be loved, safe and significant. We all want these things but have different strategies for pursuing them. We developed those strategies as children and they turned into subconscious patterns that have been staying with us since. They drive how we think, feel and act. Those strategies helped us survive as kids, but as we grow up and no longer depend on the approval of adults they don’t always serve us well.

How to grow healthily without fear

There is an alternative way to grow and create success. This journey takes its drive from love and vision, rather than fear and ego. Here’s how to start it:

Create your own benchmark of success

Rather than measuring yourself solely through external referencing, establish what success means to you. What is most important to you in life and what do you need to satisfy these desires? Is it really wealth and recognition, or is there an underlying desire for something deeper, maybe love and connection?

Learn from masters without putting yourself down

By all means, look for role models who have achieved what you are aiming for. You can explore the mindset and strategies that led to their success and experiment with modeling them. Yet I encourage you to do this from a place of self-love rather than putting yourself down in relation to them. You are special and loveable in your own way. Life does not have to be a constant competition.

Embrace failure

Once you have a vision for your life and a strategy for growth, enjoy the ride. It’s quite likely that you will have ups and downs, success and failure. That’s part of human life and not something to avoid. If you look at the journeys of highly successful people, you will probably find that each of them experienced many failures on their way to success.

Practice self-love

This is probably the most important part and it may sound cheesy: whatever you do, adopt a mindset of self-love. You are the most important person in your life and you cannot run away from yourself.

We're having a conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Main site is Email us

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store