Embracing the Unique You

The world we live in may sometimes be very confusing. On one side we are told to be authentic and unique. On the other hand, being an odd one can be perceived as a negative. How can one therefore not be the same as everyone else and be different in a way that others will like and appreciate?

There are individuals out there who feel that they don’t fit, don’t belong to our families or peer groups. Some might even suspect that they were adopted! This is how I felt in my family for example. I couldn’t find any other logical explanation to explain how little I fitted in there.

Being like everyone else is boring
Copying the ideas of others would be the easiest thing to do. Spot something nice, apply to yourself and hope that the person doesn’t find out. But its short-term solution, it’s cheap, not sexy and fake. Because this is not the real you in any case. It will not take you anywhere either. Apart from that, the person being copied may find out and then it will be a sticky moment, which you don’t want.

Has there ever been anyone who repeated what others said and gained fame from it? Probably not! What we all want to see is fresh ideas, fresh looks, fresh approaches to things, new attitudes, creative solutions. If Steve Jobs copied what his competitors at the time did, would any of us be using an i-phone now?

Being different
If you don’t want to copy others or be like them, you can be different from everyone else. People often prefer to see or hear something different from what they usually see or hear. I only realised it when I started attending accent reduction training and shared that fact with my friends. My Polish accent was never extreme but I wanted to minimise it, be less different and more similar to people around me. I wanted to adapt as far as I could. I was sure that there is an expectation that I should not have an accent. Maybe I thought that because of an inferiority complex at the time. Or maybe because some colleagues sometimes teased me (not in a bad way). I laughed with them, but perhaps the teasing had a deeper impact as well.

What surprised that was that the feedback from my friends suggested that they don’t actually have such expectation at all! In fact, it was quite the opposite! I started hearing surprised comments as to why I’ve decided to get rid of my accent. ‘Really? Could it be true?’ – I thought. ‘Are they just being nice?’ The first few of these comments really got me by surprise, and I was stunned. But the more it was happening, the more I understood that having a slightly different accent distinguishes me from the English crowd in the environment that I’m at. Someone even said: ‘I don’t want you to sound like everyone else, that would be boring!’

Being the Unique You
The only way to have no competition in today’s world is to be the Unique You. People say: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken! It could not be more accurate! Uniqueness, individuality and authenticity are naturally part of us but only if we dare to be ourselves.

Let’s take an example of Amy Winehouse. We all know how different and unique she was in many ways. One of them was having 14 tattoos, wearing a unique hairstyle or not being religious. Amy was absolutely loved and cherished for how different, unique and authentic she was. Her fans knew that she was not a perfect role model in some respects, but they loved her honesty and authenticity.

Funny enough, her last album was titled “Back to black”. Perhaps she captured the answer that we are looking for! Perhaps “Back to black” means to look inside of ourselves, finding our uniqueness and embracing it? Perhaps it is time to celebrate the willingness to articulate individuality and be proud of it?

You have nothing to lose
Steve Jobs might be pointing us in a similar direction. He loved, embraced and promoted the difference. It is captured in his unforgettable words:

“Here is to the crazy ones 
The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers 
Round pegs in the square holes
The ones who see things differently
They are not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them
But the only thing you cant do is ignore them because they change things 
They push the human race forward 
While some may see them as the crazy ones 
We see genius
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world 
Are the ones who do”

As long as we try being somebody else, hide our differences, unusual views or opinions, we might be missing the trick. Steve Jobs offers some very powerful perspective on this matter. He said in 2005, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

Easier said than done
Being the real you may not be as easy as it sounds though. We might meet mixed reactions, criticism, ignorance but also attention, appreciation or recognition. We might need to stand up for ourselves and be assertive in defending our uniqueness. It wouldn’t be a foreign feeling for Amy or Steve Jobs either. Their stories show rejection and struggle too. But nevertheless, they remained true to their individualism and continued encouraging and promoting it. And since the Universe has equipped one with something that sets them apart, why not use it as an asset and not a liability? Would it be the case that once we accept our differences ourselves, then we will be able to celebrate, embrace and appreciate them? No matter what, always remember Steve Jobs’ advice: “you have something to lose.”

Being the real you is the new currency
Although both Amy and Steve are no longer with us, their powerful messages remain. Both of them proved to us undeniably that being a unique individual, different and authentic can be a powerful currency, not only in the business world.

References:
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150417-black-flamingo-cyprus-birds-genetics-animals-science/ [Online. Accessed 27th March 2018]
https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/black-sheep-of-the-family.html [Online. Accessed 27th March 2018]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_Black [Online. Accessed 27th March 2018]

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