Be Yourself: Why Our Uniqueness Matters and How to Harness It
You’ve probably heard the old saying, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a noise? Then likewise, if you know what makes you unique, but you’re afraid to show it, does it make an impact?
So many times, we worry about what others will think that we are too afraid to show the world our true colors. In a world that places high value on conformity, it can sometimes feel daunting to embrace our uniqueness.
We want to help change the world, and help you, be you. Let’s express ourselves and be proud of the things that make us different.
Just ask Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who overcame the limitations imposed on her because of her “uniqueness” to become an expert in the field of animal husbandry. Her ability to see the world in pictures helped her create a more humane design for the treatment of cattle in processing plants, earning her an award from PETA.
As Temple—now a professor at Colorado State University—says in her Ted Talk, “The world needs different minds to work together.”
Below are some ideas and inspiration for how to identify, embrace, and harness your own uniqueness.
First, let’s start with what makes us unique. What makes us, well, us?
Our uniqueness can be found everywhere. It’s reflected in our personal experiences. It comes out in what we pay attention to. It’s found in our beliefs, hobbies, creativity, genetics, and sense of humor. We can also express our uniqueness in how we dress, how we show up every day in the world, and the people, places, and things with which we choose to surround ourselves.
You probably already know the basics of what sets you apart. It’s the things you do naturally, and love. It’s also a great idea to tune-in or hone in on your unique qualities to know where you really shine. Consider setting aside some time to brainstorm with yourself. Make a date, schedule it, and hold yourself to it. Then, ask yourself and write down your answers to the following:
- When do I feel the most comfortable in my skin? What conditions bring that about?
- What compliments do I hear most from others?
- What life experiences have shaped me most?
- When did I last feel true joy? And why was that?
- What would I pursue in life if I knew I couldn’t fail?
Remember, this is a brainstorm, so there are no right or wrong answers. Just reflect, and write away. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself.
One of the best ways to find and harness your uniqueness is by staying curious. This means, don’t accept everything at face value. Find out why, how and everything else. When you keep wondering about the world, you’re able to grow, including how you stand out.
If you’re finding yourself bored, anxious, depressed, unfulfilled, or lost, it’s time to play archaeologist with yourself. Dig deep. Because boredom, anxiety, and other uncomfortable emotions are there for a reason. They can serve as an inner compass of sorts.
No one knows the importance of staying curious better than Jake Heilbrunn, who drove that point home during our recent conversation with him. While in his first year of college at Ohio State, Jake was overcome by anxiety, depression, an unrelenting skin rash, and a nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right.
Traveling and experiencing another way of life kept popping into his head, but he was scared to deviate away from the path of others’ expectations. It was two key questions he asked himself that made all the the difference, and gave him the confidence to take the plunge:
- What is the worst thing that could happen if I pursue my dream of travel and take a leave from school?
- What’s the best thing that could happen?
When he thought about the best thing that could happen, he lit up inside at the thought of exploring the world. He then dropped out of college during his first year, and embarked on a soul-searching journey to Central America.
Since then, he’s written a book, is a professional speaker who encourages others to remain curious and listen to their own intuition, and is happily living his self-described remarkable, unconventional life.
For Jake, the path less traveled has made all the difference. And it can for you as well. Just remember to stay curious.
It’s better to be true to yourself and love who you are vs. conforming to someone else’s perspectives and ideas. You won’t solve it all today. Just keep striving to be heard and seen.
Okay, you’re clear on what makes you unique. You know what makes you, well, you. Now, it’s time to embrace the heck out of it. And if it goes against the grain, all the better.
Take a cue from one of our personal favorite musical artists and all-around bad asses—P!nk, whose chart-topping single reminds us to “raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways.”
P!nk—who by the way just announced she is pregnant with her second child and we are tickled…er, pink for her—has embraced her own uniqueness and, in doing so, has gone on to sell more than 60 million albums worldwide.
By making very intentional decisions early on in her career to not be a cookie-cutter pop artist, she continues to always keep us guessing—and delighted. One day she’s performing with superstar country artist Kenny Chesney, the next she’s performing the title track for the movie Alice through the Looking Glass, and the next she’s collaborating with a Canadian folk singer under a folk music duo named You+Me.
You’ll find P!nk, whose original dream was to become an Olympic gymnast, harnessing her uniqueness onstage—literally. If you’ve never seen her harnessed into the rafters while performing live onstage, you must. Here’s a clip of her performing her song “Glitter in the Air” at the 2010 Grammy Awards.
There’s one thing to remember in all of this—it’s not always easy to be ourselves. In fact, it’s darn right uncomfortable and scary. People may even provide unsolicited feedback. It happens. But remember, it’s better to be true to yourself and love who you are vs. conforming to someone else’s perspectives and ideas. You won’t solve it all today. Just keep striving to be heard and seen.
Yes, P!nk is out there doing her thing. But we’re sure it wasn’t always easy for her either.
Let your freak flag fly!
Use it to Make a Difference in Your Career, Life and the World
If there’s ever been a time to celebrate your own uniqueness—and the uniqueness of others—it’s now. Because, more than ever, our world needs it.
Take Jazz Jennings, the transgender teen who has been embracing her uniqueness since she was as young as 4 years old—before most children even know what the word unique means. She was just being her, and couldn’t understand why she was relegated to wearing shorts instead of a tutu like the other girls in her ballet class.
Drawing strength from the support of her family, she has fought for her right—and, in turn, the rights of other transgender kids—to experience life the way she feels inside: as a girl.
Now, she’s a television and YouTube personality, author, spokesmodel, and LGBTQ rights activist. In a world where nearly 50% of transgender youth have seriously contemplated suicide, Jazz said in a recent television interview that being a voice for kids like her has been life-changing.
“It’s such an amazing thing to be able to save a life, just for sharing your story,” she said.
If you’re not familiar with Jazz, this ABC News interview provides a brief summary of her story and the controversy Jazz faces.
We here at Accidental Information believe we are greater together than we are separate. “We are all unique, but not alone,” as our past guest Jack Rayner said during his interview. And we love him for it.
We can be unique and united.
So be proud to be original, embrace what it is that makes you who you are, and have the courage to express yourself. We promise you, the world will be a better place for it.
We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share with us what makes you unique? And how are you harnessing it to make a difference?