I Feel So Average
September 18, 2011 2:42 PM   Subscribe

I feel so average and uninteresting. What can I do to remedy this situation?

I am a mother, a wife. I have a bachelor's degree. I have a decent job. I am middle class. Middle class doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that I compare myself to others who are more successful and interesting than I am. I work part-time. I'm not a workaholic and I don't want to be. However, I am always impressed by people with advanced degrees and who are working in interesting jobs. I am a nurse, so I could go back for my master's degree but I don't want to.

More than anything I am constantly trying to brainstorm on how to become more appealing and interesting. I get down on myself that I am not more motivated. I get down on myself that I don't have a lot of flair or style and that my life is just so average. Because I have these insecurities I will sometimes look at my husband and think he is unmotivated and not ambitious enough. And when I say ambitious I do not mean money. I mean life in general. There is very little zest! Just last night I met this very interesting person that has this very interesting high-powered job and then I went home and saw my husband playing video games on a Saturday night, as usual, and I get depressed and antsy.

I need to do something different. I find myself wanting to be appealing to high powered people, or people who are smarter than I am. I'm also impressed by "cool" people -- people who have interesting hobbies or people who have a lot of friends and are well liked. I want to be in their crowd but I'm afraid I'm not. It's silly really. I know it is. Intellectually I know average is okay. I'm not a complete slouch. I have a good job. I have a great family. I exercise. I am interested in life. I have hobbies. I have friends. My life is not exciting. I don't have parties to go to. I pretty much socialize with my family and a couple of friends. I know I'm worthy and all that but what can I do to alleviate these feelings? I have had them on and off at varying degrees my entire life.

Thanks very much.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
What are the things in your past that you've done or experienced that have made you feel most alive? I hit a point similar to the one you describe here fairly recently and it was reconnecting with something (live music) and the people associated with it that snapped me out of it.

I've had the same relief when I've traveled in the past, especially after not traveling in a while.

What fundamental experiences bring out those "exciting" emotions for you? Do that.

Also, you may want to talk to your doctor about your feelings of depression. It could be a chemical thing too.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:53 PM on September 18, 2011

You could go out on regular date nights with your husband, experience something new- get your interests piqued.

Also, it sounds like you're in a bit of a rut. Go on a vacation, get a fresh perspective- on yourself as well as the life you've built.

I think it's totally normal to feel this way now and again- it's a sign to push yourself beyond your usual routines.
posted by abirdinthehand at 2:54 PM on September 18, 2011

People who are interesting are usually that way because they are interested. That is, they're impressive and cool to talk with because they are excited about things in the world around them, and they pursue those things, and they can tell you what's cool about those things.

So, what are you interested in? Besides the things you're already doing, what's something you've always wanted to do? If you don't have parties to go to, why not throw a party? Kids always have cool ideas; I'd tell each of your kids that you want to plan an activity 1-on-1 with them, and it can be anything they like that costs less than $X. Then, go take a class with them or do a science project or go on a day trip or whatever they come up with. If you exercise regularly and value that, have you considered setting a goal for yourself, such as training for a marathon or learning a new sport? Or, just pick something you've never tried before, and do that. The point is to find something you can throw yourself into a little bit so that you can fascinate yourself.
posted by decathecting at 2:55 PM on September 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

You seem a bit down on yourself. I think you should start by recognizing the ways in which you like yourself. If you're convinced that you're boring, then you'll probably come across as boring to others. Rather than trying to change what you do, start with changing how you feel about it. You mention that you do have hobbies and you exercise, etc. Well, embrace those things - don't dismiss them! I think that slowly changing your attitude from "OMG I am so boring" to "OMG I may not have a fast-paced, glamorous life, but my life is awesome in other ways" will help motivate you and make you happier.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 3:17 PM on September 18, 2011

I agree about being interested, but I also think that "high-powered" people aka the cool kids, are frequently fascinated by those who aren't in the same milieu as they. I know a lot of people in media and while they all seem to know each other--often the most popular person at a dinner party or some such event is the outlier who does something completely different--the guy who's restoring an old MG or the woman breeds roses or goat cheese makers, etc.

As a nurse, you see and experience many things that out of the realm of most people's daily routine. You're used to it, but trust me, not everyone is.

Also, do you take risks? Not jumping from airplanes risks, but risks in everyday life? Do you talk to strangers when standing on line? Do you try new foods? Do you rent movies that you've never heard of before?
posted by Ideefixe at 3:22 PM on September 18, 2011

this is what a bucket list is for. sit down and make one. the list doesn't have to be static – it can and should change as certain ideas come on, and certain ones drop off. some should be things which are not in your control, some wild and wacky, some small and easily achievable.

the point is not to cross everything off the list (although it is gratifying to do). the point is to challenge complacency. to remind yourself to constantly strive for new experiences, to push your boundaries even when that takes you out of your comfort zone – and by doing so, continue to grow and learn.

and isn’t that what makes life worth living? someone who's interested in living life to the fullest expression of their imagination is someone who is by definition, interesting.
posted by wayward vagabond at 3:31 PM on September 18, 2011

Your husband is sitting there every Saturday night participating in a revolution in artistic and cultural production, doing things people only dreamed about 30 years ago and quite possibly doing them with flair and panache. People do tend to be jaded and dismissive of it, but it's pretty defensible, in the wider view, to think they ought to be jaded and dismissive with regard to people grasping at power and influence--the same old thing people have been doing for millennia.

I don't think you're wrong to want what you want, but things that are 'cool' and thought-provoking and enjoyed by many folks you would respect might be closer at hand than you realize.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:47 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Probably not the sort of answer you were looking for, but: if you don't already do this, and you live somewhere suitable, would it help to take an interest in the natural world?

I feel as if I've achieved something when I see a new or uncommon bird or insect, or learn to identify even a common bird from its song; or when I notice that the local frogs have a different croak from the ones that lived in the pond at home; or when I see a flower or a tree and realise I know its name. And I find that that sense of achievement helps me not to feel boring and ordinary.

(It also adds an extra dimension to travel. As well as the architecture and the atmosphere and the museums, I'll always remember that I saw black kites in Japan, storks in Switzerland and hummingbirds in San Francisco.)

Also... clearly, I'm biased, but I think it's a really good thing to introduce your children to. I'm interested in nature because my mother taught me to be from an early age; we always had identification guides around the house, and Mum would point things out to us in the garden and on our walk to school. And that interest in nature really enhances my life.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:00 PM on September 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

As far as your work life, is there perhaps some sort of conference in your field that you could attend, that would be kind of cutting edge, as far as they way they are presenting things? You could easily become the person at work who's got their ear to the ground, as far as what's upcoming, and perhaps even lead your workplace in that area.
posted by bizzyb at 4:14 PM on September 18, 2011

It sounds like you have quite a lot of things going for you -- a family, free of notable dysfunction -- you've got some education -- you're a mother -- you're providing a stable and happy home life for your children -- your job is one that's useful to society -- you are comfortably off -- etc etc

Own that. Why be down on "average"? There is lots to be said about carving out a nice stable life for oneself and leaving "excitement" to others. Take some pride in what you have achieved, be proud that your own little corner of the world is untroubled. Choose to opt out of rat races.

"Interesting" parts of my life have crashed and burned in spectacular fashion; "interesting" people have harboured ridiculous drug habits (and/or other issues); exciting-job types sometimes rant a lot about the stress of it all -- the grass is not always greener. I suspect that if you could muster up a little more respect for living the sort of pleasant, quiet life that does not make the papers, you would be happier about living it.

Anyway -- a recommended read: Status Anxiety
posted by kmennie at 4:44 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

While this question kinda screams "validate me," and my usual response to that is "go validate yourself," in this case I would say, "You're a nurse? That's awesome. Nurses are the most under-appreciated people on the planet." Really. Take a deep breath and let other people live up to you.
posted by bricoleur at 4:52 PM on September 18, 2011

Dude, I feel like I could write this question myself. I'm a wife and a mom to two young kids, a part-time nurse (and don't want to do more than that), BSN... Sometimes when I feel like this I think it's partly because I'm straddling that weird line - not a careerwoman like most of my coworkers who put in X number of overtime and are all Supernursey, and not full time Supermom who is in every stay at home mom committee stuff. I've tried to get out of those ruts at times by doing a little bit of enrichment and education for myself to kind of refresh my knowledge base and make me feel like I'm progressing in my nursing knowledge. Not as extreme as my coworkers, who are all going back to school to be educators and NPs, but like bizzyb suggested, I make time to get out to a few conferences in subjects I feel like I'm weak and/or interested in. I work in progressive care with a lot of critical care patients so I'm slowly hacking away at studying for my PCCN certification. It makes me feel like I'm moving forward in my career, in baby steps.

As far as the other stuff goes, I try and tell my husband that we need time to get out and do something different. I don't know if yours is plugged into the video games because he's unable to detach himself from them on Saturday night, but sometimes mine just gets engrossed in mindless relaxing activities during our downtime because he doesn't think of anything else to do. Or he doesn't realize I need a little something different to do. So I tell him I want to get out and do something fun. Just to do something other than work and home. I mean, anything. Whatever hobbies you're into, get into them a little deeper and explore those so you can enrich those interesting areas of your life a little further. :)
posted by takoukla at 5:32 PM on September 18, 2011

I agree with others that as a nurse, you are probably more interesting than you think you are. I have a friend who has expressed that she doesn't think she's interesting, and she would rarely talk about work because she had in her head that no one cared because she wasn't interesting. She is studying to be an occupational therapist. One day I pried a bit to get her to talk about work, and there was a patient with alien hand syndrome, a bunch of war vets who were functional but had anger issues (and there's a whole social dynamic among PTSD war vets I had been unaware of in my limited reading), another day some patient had scornfully shit on the floor and demanded a particular person clean it up, etc. A lot of very interesting stuff, intellectually and socially. But she thinks she's boring.

I also agree that the way to be interesting is by being interested. I work part time and spend the rest of my time learning and doing small projects without any thought to what others think, just doing what interests me. My husband works at NASA and I'm always surprised when I go out to some gathering with his colleagues and they find *my* life fascinating. I just do tutoring and mystery shopping and some writing, nothing prestigious, but I am very enthusiastic about sharing knowledge when people are genuinely interested. Plus, *not* having taken the usual pretigious steady route is part of what makes me interesting to them. You could go get a PhD and have some prestigious job... and you would be surrounded by people like you most of your time -- you'd still feel like you're not interesting compared to those around you.

To the best of your ability, try not to focus on prestige as an indicator of interesting-ness, because it's not. And oh my god, my husband and most of his colleagues and I and my other interesting friends play a lot of video games! If you mentally value activities by whether they're worthwhile or what society thinks of them, you're never going to find an activity you feel truly secure to just wholeheartedly embrace because you like it. And if you can't do that, you will have trouble being interesting to other people. Remember, society is full of people that do what society says they should do, and no one takes notice of them because they're the norm, and because most aren't even excited about what they're spendibg their lives doing. (Although a lot of people in research positions feel uninteresting when they aren't, and society does give that position the a-okay.) If you're always looking around wondering if other people value what you're doing, you are going to seem boring because you can't just let yourself be passionate about something. No one will be enthusiastic about your interests if you aren't, and if you *are* enthusiadtic you'll find that people are enthusiastic about stuff you have dismissed as unimportant or not prestigious enough. Interesting people tend to have unique personalities, and you don't become unique by constantly looking over your shoulder to contort yourself for others.

If something is fun or interesting to you, if you enjoy it and would do it even if no one else in the world existed, do it. If you are only doing something because you think it will make you interesting, if your goal is foremost to be interesting instead of enjoying yourself, stop! Learn to recognize those thoughts, stop them short, and use it as a cue to ask yourself what would be a fun use of your attention just then.

Also: plenty of people are interesting because of their careers, but the most interesting people I've ever met are interesting because their career has so little to do with their life. People who punch the clock to support awesome hobbies are some cool motherfuckers.

Furthermore, people that are seriously interesting don't need to work with big complicated topics (like many careers) to be interesting; they often can and do, because that stuff is fascinating to learn about, but you can work at a gas station and be really interesting. My dad was a locksmith and a security guard, but he knew SO MUCH STUFF and was so intellectually curious that you could talk to him about anything.

So, dude, you have so many things in place to be interesting already: you only work part time so all your time isn't spent on one thing, you have an interesting job but you don't realize it yet, you mention hobbies, etc. You don't need to radically change your life to be interesting. You don't need another job or degree unless it turns out you're passionate about something that requires them. You just need to quit caring what other people think and do what excites you.
posted by Nattie at 5:52 PM on September 18, 2011 [9 favorites]

I agree that the way to be interesting is to be interestED. Being an interesting person, fascinating and fun to be around, is not about having a glamour-puss career, traveling the world, dating a slew of Mr. Bigs, name-dropping, or any of that stuff that many people think makes for interestingness.

Some of the most interesting, fascinating, I'm-so-glad-to-know-them people in my experience have had perfectly mainstream careers and interests or, in a couple cases, have been supported by Social Security disability. And likewise, some of the biggest bores I've known have been actors, models, artists and other superficially shiny sorts.

Interesting people are open-minded and curious about the world around them. Interesting people love discovering something new, whether it's a new vacation destination, a new restaurant, a new book or new video game. Interesting people don't put on a facade of hipster cool, looking down on those who scrapbook or read romance novels or watch Oprah; even if they hate scrapbooking and Oprah themselves, they don't make other people feel small for liking them. Interesting people are good listeners and like to hear other people talk about THEIR interests. Interesting people are cheerful, encouraging and make life pleasant for those around them. Nothing is more boring than a Debbie Downer.

So take that nursing job, happy family, and nice middle-class life and work it! Be curious, be open-minded, read, take up hobbies that you love, have a passion about something. Finally, don't kid yourself that "high powered people" are always worth getting to know or kissing up to. High-powered people can be boring. Believe me, polyamorous pagan city-dwelling alternative artist types can be ultra-boring once you get to know them, and church-going, suburban Thomas Kinkade-loving sorts can be really cool and fascinating people. Don't judge a book by its cover and all that.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:08 PM on September 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I work on a trading desk at an investment bank in NYC. I work 12 hours a day, from 7AM - 7PM and barely see the sun. When I get home I'm so drained I barely have the energy to procure food and flop into bed - so all of 3 hours of personal time on a good day. Not exactly glamorous, and my hours are on the shorter end for finance.

When I meet people who work normal 9-5 jobs in the real economy, I have this feeling that is a combination of envy, respect, and nostalgia (because I used to work reasonable hours before I started this job). I have a ton of respect for people who actually do things to help other people, or build actual things, or - you know, DO stuff besides moving money around providing liquidity to the markets. Meeting a nurse would be way more interesting for me than meeting just another random finance person.

Although they take up too much space and walk too slow I get cheered up when I see tourists gawking at things in Manhattan - I have this mental image of normal people who actually have time to take vacations and will go back to a big suburban house in the Midwest somewhere doing a real job like nursing or engineering or whatever.

Average is awesome.
posted by pravit at 6:30 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wanting to be interesting is not the place to start, I think. Deciding why you're dissatisfied is.

Do you really care so much what someone else thinks if your life is satisfying to you? Because really, what business is it of theirs? If they're worthwhile people, they won't look down on you for not being some kind of jetsetting go-getter. If they're not, who needs 'em?

If your life is not satisfying to you, you have to decide what you are looking for. More time with husband? Travel? Culture? New friends? New career? Taking back up an old hobby, pursuing an old dream?

Mastering a new skill is often a good route for general ennui, so that means a class of some kind, but you really need to sit down and try to pin down what exactly you think you're missing.

And try not to buy into the fear that everyone else is having a better time than you are and then judging yourself on it.
posted by emjaybee at 10:01 PM on September 18, 2011

You work part-time? Could you volunteer? Getting involved in your community is a great way to meet people, and acquire skills and stories to make you more "interesting."
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 12:52 AM on September 19, 2011

I just want to add, I was reading an interview with Rita Moreno in Sunday's SF Chronicle and she said that Elvis Presley (whom she dated) was "not interesting." Read a random celebrity interview and chances are you'll come away thinking "That person is boring and/or thick!"

I'm saying this to emphasize that it is not what you do but who you are that makes you an interesting person who is a joy to be around.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:06 AM on September 19, 2011

What you need is not to "be more interesting", but to stop obsessing over wanting to be more appealing and interesting.

There's so much anxiety over this idea of being appealing and interesting, ask yourself who is it you are trying to appeal to -- yourself, or others? It seems like you don't like yourself very much.

You mention you have hobbies, but it sounds like you want what you would consider to be interesting hobbies. If your current hobbies aren't interesting or fun to you they can be changed -- but there is no point in doing a hobby you don't like just because you hope other people will be impressed. If you like your current hobby but tell people "oh, it's nothing interesting, I just do x", quit describing it that way, tell people what you find exciting about it.

Some of these people you think are so successful may well wish they could work part time, have a family that wants to socialize with them, and have depth in friendship with a few good friends.

What you say about your husband is troubling. His choice to do something that he enjoys on a Saturday night has nothing to do with how interesting you are. I'm not sure if you want him to do something different because you would enjoy it, or because you somehow think that people will find you interesting because you can tell them all about your interesting husband.

If you just can't quit obsessing over this, maybe there's something you want to do with your life that you have been avoiding. Figure out what it is.
posted by yohko at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I only skimmed some of the responses and it seems like the majority of the advice is to go do something that interests you. While I totally agree with that, I'm getting the feeling that you don't think your interests are really all that interesting. And maybe you don't feel like you're passionate enough about any particular subject to go and become that person who is known for it. I get that. So, in answer to your question about what to do to, I say if you meet someone who is doing something that sounds really cool to you, then go and do that. Emulate, to the best of your ability, the quality/action that you like. There's something to the notion of, "fake it till you make it." It already has cool points because this interesting person is doing it and it'll probably give you a feeling of accomplishment because you're trying something new. And who knows, maybe you'll be pretty good at it and actually turn it into a passion of yours. Or, maybe you'll suck, but at least you'll have something to talk about. And, if I'm reading between the lines correctly, a part of you just wants other people to see you as cooler.

Also, sometimes people appear to be more interesting when you're talking them because they're filtering down the most exciting parts of what they do for a living or what hobbies they have, to keep a conversation going - to have something to talk about. But even in the most exciting jobs, the day-to-day consists of meetings or paperwork or staring at the wall and who really wants to talk about that? So your take away is just the best parts of this person's life. I'd say it'd be pretty hard to live up to the *cooler* parts of anyone's life as told in short, party-ready snippets.
posted by tealeaf522 at 11:46 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please discuss all of this with your husband, and let him know it's a big deal to you. Otherwise, this itch might be scratched in a way that may harm your marriage.
posted by benzenedream at 5:31 PM on September 19, 2011

I feel so average and uninteresting. What can I do to remedy this situation?

Be above average and interesting.

And the fastest route to being above average and interesting is to not care what other people think of you. Let the average and uninteresting people worry about that.

Do what you like to do -- be brave enough to just do what you like and wear what you like, and not need the approval of others.

Keep bees in your spare room if that what you want to do. Visitors hear a dangerous hum as they sip tea and honey in your kitchen.

Learn a language spoken by a significant minority in your town by taking lessons from a native speaker near you, and then learn about them, make friends with them, make them less Them and more Us to you and them. If there's a need, get training so you can reciprocate by teaching English to adults or children.

Plant an all-native garden, which could be pretty hard to do if you want it to get past the local HOA enforcers and look good and be genuinely made up only of plants native to your area. Become the local expert in that area and be able to teach it.

Be a guerrilla gardener.

Get yourself a GPS camera and then map things in your area and make a web site of all the oldest trees in town, or all the buildings built before a certain date. Write histories of them. Pre-War My Town. Make a sort of time capsule history of Main Street, describing and showing everything that is there right now and that won't be in a few years.
posted by pracowity at 12:13 AM on September 20, 2011

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