Teaching Our Children to be Joyfully Mediocre

Breedlove Guitar

I love playing guitar.

But truth be told, I am not very good.

Sure, I can rock out on “Shine Jesus Shine,” “One Tin Soldier” or “Brown Eyed Girl” like no one’s business, but I am pretty sure that I have reached my peak. I am fine knowing that I my 12 chords and I could lead a campfire sing-along, but I am fully aware that my window to be good enough to be “in the band” closed a long time ago.

And really, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.

In fact, I love being able to just be mediocre.

In some ways, it’s kind of sad that I have to give myself permission to not try hard to excel at playing guitar: take lessons, schedule practice and play until my fingers bleed — but time but in our hyper-achievement society this is apparently what is has come too. We must give ourselves permission to not feel compelled to be the best and simply enjoy doing. While I believe that we are called to tend the passions, talents and skills that reside within each of us, that does not always equate to being the best and most talented at them all. Sometimes tending our passions means allowing ourselves be, in the eyes of the world, mediocre.

As we raise our daughters, this is a constant tension for us. Of course we want them to do well in whatever they are passionate about and called to pursue, but we also do not want to communicate that their worth and their joy comes from achievement and competency in all things; because, despite what we would like to think, in reality no one can be amazing at everything. In the end, our sense of worth and joy can be just as nourished by simply doing something that we love whether we are good at it or not.

It seems that society and we parents – both with good intentions – forget that sometimes whether it is kicking a ball in soccer, making music with a violin or expressing oneself through drawing, joy can be found in the act of doing those things, and not the trophy, the applause or the recognition. I know that it is a fine line when parenting: when to push, when to pull back or when to stop altogether; but we must never communicate that excellence is the sole determiner for participation in an activity. For when we forget that not all things must be mastered, we too often discourage our children from doing things they love or we push so hard that the activities no longer remain life-giving endeavors.

One of the things that we parents can do to model this joyful mediocrity is to acknowledge those things that we, ourselves, are not very good at — but love to do anyway. We can also return to those things that we may no longer do because we fell into the trap of thinking that we had to be good at it for it to worth our time.  I suspect that when our children see us not excelling at something and being okay with it, they too will excel at embracing and doing those things that they love and bring them joy.

Now go forth and be mediocre. Joyfully.

* Some folks have begun sharing their joyful mediocrity [here]. Feel free to add yours!

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