Schools, bodies, relationships – this quest to be outstanding can be damaging to the average person, as well as those at the top
We live in a society obsessed with being exceptional. Whether it is as workers, parents, students, lovers or cooks, we are expected to be outstanding. We must strive to be the best employee, craft an outstanding body, have an amazing relationship, all while being exceptionally happy. Even the most ordinary institutions also are expected to be nothing less than excellent. Companies want to be “world class”, schools have become “academies of excellence”, and humble local GP surgeries strive to be “outstanding”. Being good enough is seen as simply not good enough.
Our quest to be excellent has many positive consequences, but it also can be damaging. Lionising excellence can create huge inequalities. When high performers are showered with rewards, the great mass of us who are average miss out. This can spark resentment in those who feel that they don’t measure up. But the obsession with being exceptional does just harm the great mass of average people. It can also damage to people at the top as well.