Cherish your uniqueness
In our society, some characteristics are more celebrated than others: masculine over feminine, extrovert over introvert, hetero over gay, strong over weak, young over old, rich over poor, analytical over intuitive… This translates into a society, where it’s all about “more, faster and stronger” If you don’t believe me, look at some of the motivational videos that are popular on YouTube.
Unconsciously, this idea is planted in our minds and we try to fit into those characteristics. However, there’s another way; one where you make a conscious decision in how you want to live your life, without following what society imposes on you. Then you don’t need to resist or fight with how you are, but you can just allow the real version of yourself to appear, whatever that version may look like.
What can nature teach us?
I love and cherish nature. I’m also convinced, that it can teach us a lot. When we look at the forest, we never think: “what an ugly tree”. We just see the tree as it is, without thinking less of it or diminishing any of its qualities. We don’t put an order to it or judge it.
When you get a deeper understanding of nature, you will notice that every part contributes to a perfect ecosystem. Every role is important and cooperates with the whole. The Earth – without human interference – is a perfect organism. Nature balances itself and we only start to discover all the processes that are intertwined. I never cease to be amazed every time I learn something new about it.
For example, did you ever notice the difference between a planted forest, with only one tree type and a naturally grown woods? In a natural forest, the most diverse ecosystem thrives by itself. In a planted one, something is gone: the balance.
What if we would look at people in the same way. We need balance, we need a bit of everyone, to create synergy. We all have a role to play. How boring would it be if everybody would be the same? That way we would end up in a highly dysfunctional society. Diversity creates synergy and synergy is needed.
Move away from the pack
When we were little – partly due to our education system – we quickly learnt to fit in. We gave up our individuality in return to be accepted in society. We were raised to move between the lines that were drawn for us. Furthermore, our parents and teachers imprint us with their assumptions of the world. A lot of them were fuelled by fear: You will never find a good job if you don’t have a degree. You cannot make money with art. Don’t trust strangers.
Later when we do get a job, the same process happens all over again. We need to digest the prescribed rules and behave in a certain way; dress accordingly, have an opinion about some topics and avoid others. And most of all, we need to do our jobs like they tell us. There is not much room for creativity and exploring new ways of doing things.
As a result, we lose our uniqueness and compromise ourselves. I urge you to make a reverse movement: to move away from the pack. Your uniqueness is so much more valuable than the compromised version of yourself.
Society will try to label you and put you in a box. Don’t settle for it. You are not the same as other people with similar characteristics. It’s not because you work in construction that you are not well read or you shouldn’t play soccer because you’re a woman. And who says that an adult, cannot be playful?
People try to make sense of the world by making assumptions and generalizations. Do not conform, if this is not you. You are a unique expression of humanity. Re-invent what it means to be human, to be you.
You will never be happy if you try to live up to someone else’s definition of happiness. You will be forever fighting, living in the resist state, where everything takes a lot of energy. In the other hand, being yourself doesn’t take any effort. You will experience a flow state, where everything goes smoothly.
To achieve that, you need to first accept who you are. There are different stages in such acceptance.
You try to change yourself. For example: an extrovert gets energy from being around people, while an introvert recharges while being alone. As an introvert you can try to conquer you introverted nature and – for example – apply for a job in sales. However, this will consume lots of energy and leave you feeling drained.
You accept who you are and don’t try to change it, but you still try to hide something from the world. You are not confident in showing yourself completely.
You celebrate who you are, embracing your talents and using them. You are not afraid to show your true colours, even if that means experiencing occasional resistance or discomfort.
Accepting who you really are is a necessary step towards happy and fulfilling life. That means also that you won’t be good at everything. Make peace with that and don’t waste your time on pursuing goals that are not even yours.
If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid – Albert Einstein
And what if I’m ugly? Too big, too small, too skinny, too… Hold on for a second. Your appearance is a heritage from your many great-great-great grandfathers and grandmothers. All your relatives in the ascending line influenced how you look today. You carry their DNA in you. Many generations needed to survive, sometimes in extreme conditions, for you to be here. How can you ever think something is not right: your ears are too big, your calves are too small or your skin is too pale or too dark? Too dark for who?
Our society dictates what is pretty. But if you understand that this is merely a form of consensus, not an objective truth, you don’t need to give so much attention to this. The beauty ideal is always changing throughout the history. The truth is that it can’t be measured. It’s for sure not a combination of agreements and conventions. Beauty means different things for different people. It is said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and it’s merely a perception.
Your journey is unique
Nowadays it’s easy to compare yourself with other people. You can compare your career, talents and possessions… But if life would be a race, we all would have different starting points. Maybe some of us got a head start because of ideal circumstances: a supporting family, a natural talent or just some luck along the way.
Others needed to escape a bad environment, experience throwbacks and adversity in their lives. They needed to overcome different obstacles, before they could even “join” the race. We never know where people are coming from or heading to, so it doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to them. Your journey is unique.
Content vs context
I have some questions for you:
- How do you feel waking up in the morning?
- How do you interact with people daily?
- How much joy and pleasure do you experience during the day?
- How fulfilled are you with your job?
- How do you feel going to bed in the evening?
Aren’t those more important questions than:
- What job do you do?
- Which house do you own?
- How do you look like?
- Which clothes are you wearing?
Life is not about the content: what you do, how you look like or what you own. It’s about the context: how you feel and interact with the world. The content of somebody’s life is highly visible and can be compared, while the context is much more subtle. Context is personal. For one person fulfilment is being a housewife, for another it’s about having a top career. Somebody in a wheelchair can have a more joyous life then an Olympic athlete. Or be an Olympic athlete himself!
There are many reasons why it is important to embrace who you really are but let me focus on the two most important. First and foremost: you. When you stop pretending someone that you are not, your life becomes easier. You don’t need to hide anymore and you experience less and less duality in your life.
As a result, people will open to you more. After all they are drown to authenticity, which is a rare commodity these times. Deeper, more meaningful connections will be made, and you will grow as a person. Last, but not least; life is much more fun when you live that way.
Do it also for others. We are influenced on a daily base by everyone we meet. Just by showing who you really are, you can present a different viewpoint and help others to question their own believes and morals. You can make them think and even enlighten them. I was for sure impacted greatly by individuals, who are fully present in the world, without pretending or wearing a mask.
Trust me; there is nothing to hide from the world. Beauty is found in everyone. It just takes a change in perception and a little bit of courage to see it.