Being different is a major positive if you use it to your advantage.
Sometimes I feel so different it hurts. On one hand I know it’s a good thing to think differently, dress differently, and be raised differently. It sets me apart and in a crowded marketplace, and that’s a plus. But, when I’m swimming in the opposite direction, I just want to climb out of my head and into my heart and find comfort there. I’m flying solo in so many circumstances – transcending every fear to find a place within me that can turn on compatibility and find connection – I often feel lost upon landing.
Fear. It keeps us from telling the truth to our clients, picking up the telephone (instead we hide behind email), and actually calling a prospect we are dying to work with or asking for the money we are worth. We don’t want to ruffle feathers, upset the apple cart or worse, be seen as weird. We desire to fit in, be liked or even loved. Performing for applause that only comes in the form of a late payment. We want to change, finally be ourselves, but how?
If you’re a fish out of water like me, you attract attention because you’re different from the people around you. You are perceived as someone who doesn’t fit in; you’re outside the norm, some may feel that you’re too controversial. You’re considered ahead of your time, maybe even an iconoclast. Whatever you are, you don’t run with the pack; instead, you march to the beat of your own drum.
If I’ve just described you, count your blessings. You are indeed fortunate. Your natural characteristics are what will—and likely, already have—set you apart in a positive way. You may not feel very positive about those differences right now because you’ve been busy trying to wish them away or cover them up. The truth is, if you stand out not because you’re different, but because you’re solidly grounded in who you are—with no apologies – you’ll be the Lady Gaga-Steve Jobs-Oprah-Ellen-Einstein of your world. And how great would that be? Marinade in that thought for a minute – feels good doesn’t it?
If you can get out of the despair of being the only one like you, you’ll find that people will gravitate toward you because of your energy, confidence, and flair. But before any of that happens, you need to come to terms with being a fish out of water—and a Fearless Fish, at that!
None of us comes into this world with a handbook to guide us in developing our personalities. We simply jump into life and do the best we can. But what if you feel different—that you somehow don’t fit in with the norm, that you aren’t truly recognized and accepted for who you are? Trying to retrofit yourself into society and work life can be daunting, burning you out before you’ve even had a chance to shine.
If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that acting out of fear and living according to other people’s needs will pigeonhole you into being someone you’re not; and that’s not what life is about. Our job is to be open to the possibilities and see how far we can go. Life is a journey, so why not make the most of it? So, let’s begin the journey of celebrating your distinctiveness.
It is a lifelong process to get to know and accept ourselves as someone who is different.
One of my closest friends recently said to me, “What if I’ve come this far and I still don’t know who I am?’’ As much as we want to quickly understand ourselves, there are no shortcuts to the truth. We’re deep and multifaceted, and we’re changing all the time. But at our core—in our souls—we are stable, vibrant beings with philosophies, values, and perspectives that travel with us throughout our lives.
Open up to your authentic self. Sounds scary, huh? ‘‘The real me?’’ Sometimes we’re not quite sure who that is. When we’re used to feeling distant from the group, we tend to submerge our true selves in an effort to be accepted. The real movers and shakers in this world live their lives with conviction; they rarely hide who they are. They accept that they were born different or landed in circumstances that make them different, and they embrace the opportunity to stand out from the pack. We all have that same opportunity.