Not Being the Best Isn't the Same as Being Mediocre

I’m reading Emilie Wapnick’s book How to Be Everything and I got to this section header and felt like she was speaking very directly to me.

Several weeks ago now I was having a late night conversation with W. We were talking about how he would have fared at my high school, where he would have gone if he hadn’t gone to the local Friends School instead.

“I think you’d be okay. I mean, I was in the middle of my class, and I did alright.”

I was tenth in my high school class of about 300. I was in roughly the top 3%. And I perceived (and apparently, continue to perceive) that as the middle.

When my final report card came, my dad said, “Why didn’t you tell us you were tenth in your class? That’s amazing!” I said, “Well, you know, it’s not like I was valedictorian or salutatorian, so it’s not a big deal.”

I think my perception might be skewed.

It’s a very privileged problem to have, I’m aware, but I suspect this kind of thinking contributes to mental illness in academia.