How to be ordinary in an extraordinary world

RACHEL DOHERTY

Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

School is a place where kids learn to compare and talent is applauded. But there are three ways ordinary kids can find their extraordinary place in life and be happy with it.

Our society loves to champion excellence. From the moment a child steps into school there’s a mould that they’re expected to fit. Academically, in their behaviour and on the sporting field too.

Some kids exceed it and receive accolades for it. Some kids don’t meet the standard and get support or greater attention. And there are lots of kids in the middle. For kids who aren’t extraordinary at anything it can be hard for them to accept their ordinary-ness.

Which is a shame, because in the grown up world, most of us are, well, ordinary. We’re not that talented or particularly excellent at anything.

“Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

JIM ROHN

But what’s different for adults is that there’s no one standard for being ordinary. One person’s skills and interests aren’t so easily compared to others.

So if you have a child who struggles with not being excellent, use these tips to help them embrace their unique style of being ordinary.

The pressure to be extraordinary is hurting our kids

Accepting ordinary-ness can be tough for some kids. The pressure to fit in and keep up leaves some children overwhelmed and pushes others to stop trying.

Some children develop anxiety from the pressure to do their best in every situation. They start to reason that their best is never enough and strive for perfection in every project. Other kids start playing a record of negative thoughts through their mind. Over and over again. “You’re not good at this.” “You’re a failure.” “Everyone else is better.”

But there are also young people who choose not to play. Who could be extraordinary, but opt out. They disengage in class and if they’re older, might drop out of school all together. It might seem a simple solution that if we remove the competitive nature of school the kids will be okay. But life is full of competition. In most of the competitions we face in life,

It might seem a simple solution that if we remove the competitive nature of school the kids will be okay. But life is full of competition. In most of the competitions we face in life, there’s one or two winners and lots of losers. Rather than see themselves as losers, we need to help kids see themselves as runners up.

If you look at television shows like The Voice, there’s someone who wins big and bags the recording deal. But there have been plenty of people on those shows who didn’t win, yet have gone on to have successful music careers. They saw the competition as a chance to improve their skills. To launch a career, no matter where they came in the race. They got comfortable with not being extraordinary and turned to hard work instead.

“I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself and I believe in the goodness of others.” – Muhammad Ali

How to help kids get comfortable with being ordinary

Successful kids have a good understanding of who they are. The things they’re good at and the things they’re not. They’re comfortable with being ordinary, but also pick a couple of things – their passions – to work and chase success in.

1. Start with how they see themselves

If you have an ordinary child, the first thing you need to do is help them to see that they’re part of the majority. They need to come to terms with who they are. Point out what they do well, or what they try hard at. Help them to see that everyone has flaws or weaknesses that make them who they are.

2. Focus on character more than talents

Often people who don’t seem talented at doing things are good at being things. They have a character that other people value. Being kind, caring for others, being a good listener, and being encouraging are all qualities that some people take a lifetime to develop. Honing these qualities can open up to talents that aren’t all that valuable in kids but are for adults.

Young people with talent who lack humility usually come to grief when the competition heats up. Talent only gets you so far. Kids who learn to persevere are going to be around much longer than the kids who were amazing at school.

3. Broaden their horizons

There are so many talents in this world that we can’t see when a child is at school. Entrepreneurship, the ability to face battle as a combat soldier and the fine motor skills of a surgeon are a couple that come to mind. If we let our kids think that what they do at school is all they can do outside of it, we’re going to have lots of engineers, teachers, and accountants.

The world is a big place with the perfect role for every child. And it’s their interests and personality that will help them work out that place.

By finding ways to encourage their individualness, we’ll help them feel less ordinary and set them apart from the stars around them. Being ordinary should be a sign that a child hasn’t found their space yet. For some kids that will come long after they leave school, and many adults are still finding it too. So take the pressure of kids. Point out their good qualities and help them to test out their skills, interests, and abilities in lots of different ways.

Is being ordinary something you struggled with as a child? If this article has made you think a young person you know is struggling with being ordinary, keep an eye on their mental health. Get some help if they need it, by encouraging them to see their doctor or call Kids HelpLine.

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