What makes people mediocre? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Stephen Motson, Professional Investigator, MSc. in Criminal Investigation, on Quora:

Mediocrity is a state of mind. We often feel inferior when comparing ourselves to other, more successful people. We try to fit in and follow the crowd, whilst continuing to dwell on all of the bad things that happen in our lives. We don't realise that most other people lead equally unfulfilled lives, feel inferior, feel mediocre, and often put on a false front or adopt a pseudo-personality to either boost their own self-esteem and sense of worth, or make others believe that they're doing better than they are. Ultimately, mediocrity is linked to an overwhelming feeling of a lack of importance.

Everybody, I don't care who they are, has a desire to feel important. When you look at an old photograph of yourself within a group of people, who do you look for first within that photo? You. Who do other people look for first? Them. People aren't interested in you, they're not interested in me, they're interested only in themselves. The need to feel important is as vital as the need for food or shelter. When people are ignored or overlooked they begin to eventually feel worthless, unimportant, and mediocre. People have even gone insane (literally locked away inside mental institutions) for this very reason. In some people this feeling is so intense that they have turned up for school or college one day with a shotgun and blasted those who made them feel this way into oblivion. Many serial or spree killers have started this way believing the notoriety gave them a sense of importance.

The key to overcoming feelings of mediocrity, worthlessness, and lack of importance or respect is fairly simple and is achieved by recognizing the desire that others have to feel important and playing on those feelings (I know it sounds as though you're going to be putting yourself down, but quite the reverse happens).

Find out what makes another person tick, find out their interests, and be genuinely interested in that person and those interests (even if it sounds dull and mediocre). Be agreeable with others, ask them questions and take a genuine interest in what it is that makes that other person happy or fulfilled ("Oh you're a Buddhist, I don't know a lot about that...Is it really? I never knew that...What would happen if... etc.) Be sincere and don't use flattery. People can see through flattery. Learn their first name and use it often. All these things make that other person feel important, and then something else begins to happen: when you start concentrating on other people and becoming genuinely interested in them, you forget about your own negative feelings towards yourself; and secondly other people start taking an interest in you, your life, what makes you tick, etc. Without knowing it, your feeling of importance increases and your feelings of mediocrity diminish. You feel happy again. Others see you as important, because you make them feel important (without even knowing it).

If you don't believe me, try it. But be genuine and sincere.

If you have never read "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, then read it, re-read it, or listen to audio. Even though this book was written in the 1930s, the principles taught in it are timeless and priceless. It's well worth it.

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