5 helpful strategies for the not average (Do you ever feel like you just don’t fit in?)

You are currently viewing 5 helpful strategies for the not average (Do you ever feel like you just don’t fit in?)
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When you’re not average and you don’t fit into the majority, it can be very isolating.  As a psychologist, I come across many clients who struggle with feelings of deep inner loneliness. Whether or not they manage to fit in with what’s considered “normal” from the outside perspective, on the inside they feel like there’s something deeply wrong with them. Because they know that the way they think, feel, and function just isn’t the same as most or all of the people they know.

This article explains how and why the world caters to the average majority, and suggests 5 simple strategies to help yourself if you’re not average in some way.

The world caters to the average

The law of averages is a mathematical and philosophical theory from the 1800’s, where the average (the most common denominator) reflects what can be considered “normal”. Outside of mathematics, this idea has practical application to everyday life – nearly everything around you is set up to cater for the biggest, most average group.

The material (physical) average

That the world caters to the material average will come as no surprise to you if you are disabled in some way, or even if you’re just physically different to the norm. You already know that airline seats are designed to fit (cramp) most people, and manufacturers make sizes that fit the majority of the population. From clothes, bags, chairs, beds, and desks to doorways, ceilings, elevators, and cars, most everything made for human use is designed for the able, average-sized majority.

People who are left-handed grow up having to learn to be ambidextrous to survive in a right-handed world. Bigger people have to book and pay for 2 seats. Tall people learn to stoop wherever they go. People who use wheelchairs have to check access before they go anywhere. It seems like it’s just too bad if you’re physically different in some way. You have no choice but to change yourself and your own behaviour in order to navigate the physical world.

The non-material averages

It’s not just the physical stuff. There are so many other aspects of living in the world that are designed to cater to the middle-of-the-range masses.

Education: All modern educational systems such as schools and universities are designed for the average. Education as a concept was defined in the advent of the industrial era where the goal was to prepare the majority of people for standardised jobs.

The entire system of education is based on the idea of the average student and aims to serve the most students possible. Mainstream learning teaches you an average way to think in an average number of years. To this day you’re literally tested, measured and graded according to the average expectations for your age group.

Employment: In almost every sector, the world of formal and even informal employment designates roles and schedules to suit the many. The average 40-hour work week, with a standardised 9-5 work schedule, is designed for the average majority. If you’re one of the few that works better in a different way, you have to force yourself to fit in, or find some kind of free-lance employment.

The social world: There are expectations (based on averages) that apply to social norms too. Societal wellbeing is measured and rated according to average variables that fit the many rather than the few. There are generalised social climates, with certain implicit or explicit levels of interpersonal interactions, as well as certain average levels of personal connections. Anyone who doesn’t fit into these norms, may be on the receiving end of varying amounts of social disapproval.

Average is what it is

I’m not trying to suggest that average is bad. The average is a useful way of understanding certain trends and groups. And the majority of people live their entire lives in this range and are quite fine.

Approximately 80 percent of the world fits more-or-less comfortably into average-sized transport, accommodation, furniture, and clothes. This portion of the population completes the average amount of schooling, works in an average job and earns the average amount of money. They largely meet the average requirements and expectations of their age range, culture, and socio-economic setting. Their life expectancy, well-being and happiness is measured based on averages, and there is nothing wrong with being part of this group.

Obviously, what is average also depends on the environment you’re in – while averages are becoming ever more global, what is average in one area of the world, or within one culture, may not be average in a different area or culture.

What if you’re not average?

But, what if you’re at either of the thin ends of the bell curve? What if you are outside the majority and you’re ‘above-average’ or ‘below average’ in some aspect of your being? Or maybe you feel like you’re different in many ways?

BFB success formula: What to keep in mind when you’re not average

  1. Know that you are not alone

Just because the world caters to the average, doesn’t mean that’s all there is. A fairly substantial number of people fall outside the standard average range. Even if the ways in which you’re different are quite rare, you are not alone.

If what you experience is common in 1 in 5 people, 1 in 10 people, or even 1 in 100 people – when you add them all up there are large groups of people struggling in just the same way that you do.

  1. Focus on your strengths

Whether you fit into most averages or not, you have your own special set of strengths. Set aside some time to sit down with a pencil and notebook, or open the notes app on your phone, to have a think about your personal strengths.

  1. Make a list

Reflect on your strengths. Think back over any difficulty, barrier, loss, pain, or adverse life circumstance you’ve gotten through. How did you do that? What enabled you to cope or survive?  Consider what your friends or loved ones might say they liked about you. Write it all down.

  1. Play to your strengths

Instead of focusing on your ‘weaknesses’ or trying to fix yourself in some way, build on your strengths. Remind yourself of your strengths! If you do affirmations, consider adding your strengths in there. (And by the way, affirmations are good for your mental health)

  1. Embrace kindness to yourself and others

It’s easy to be harsh on yourself when you don’t fit into the norms. It’s hard to be different. Humans are social creatures and you can’t help wanting to fit in. But instead of focusing on what you don’t have and where you don’t fit in, practice kindness to yourself and to others. Not only does practising kindness improve your self-esteem and confidence, it builds connection with others.

What’s your experience of not fitting into the average? Is it a big deal to you or not? And in what ways can build upon your strengths?

I hope you enjoyed this exercise and that it was helpful in some way.

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