The Problem With Believing We Are Unique
Funny how there are two words that have similar conversational definitions in English but have completely opposite connotations. Perhaps the most difficult thing to accept when you were in junior high was that you were the “weird” kid. The literal meaning doesn’t even matter, because it was essentially a scarlet letter. A horrible brand that, if you were lucky, would shake off before high school. It is odd, ineffably different, unlike anything else, alien. It is a damning accusation and yet, is almost certainly true about everyone that it has ever been thrust at. We all have our quirks, but calling someone weird is to state that they have more of them, or more severe ones than the “normal” person.
Our perspectives define our world. To an adolescent preteen, being perceived as abnormal is terribly isolating in a time when we have the greatest desire to commune and be accepted. So what happens? Some of us begin to suppress our so-called abnormality and assimilate to the pack. Others of us regress deeper into isolation until we find ourselves accepted only by other outcasts. Here is the great thing about perspective, it’s not permanent. Apply wisdom, and a new context and our perspectives change quickly.
By the time we become adults, we may still have those lingering memories of the times we were out cast as the kid who was more interested in a book than in having friends. However, you may have ended up like Lena Dunham ,and all of a sudden that thing that made you weird, (being socially awkward), now makes you something else.
The new word people start using to describe you has an altogether different connotation, an incredibly positive one. The new term goes with other great adjectives like like rare, special, and precious, people start saying that you are “unique”. It is a brilliant feeling to be recognized for your gifts and talents. This can be even more fulfilling when you have spent many hours developing a skill or ability that you have had to sacrifice for. As quickly as light filling up a dark room your perception of yourself can change along with everyone else’s.
“Unique” is used in a positive way to describe the same traits that could be deemed “weird”. And just because the perspective has changed, doesn’t mean the circumstance has. If we accept that the qualifications for being unique are the same as being weird then both are inordinate, even if that takes the shape of extraordinary. Regardless of how beautifully the cast is made, it is still an enclosure. Being unique is an isolated experience. Rarely can you really share what is going on with yourself, 1. because you may not have the practice at forming bonds with people , and 2. because there may not be very many people that you are compatible with.
The new kid in school, could be a book worm who grows up to be a great writer, or just a kid from another country. The terms are a superficial way to describe a person who is noticeably different from others and whether positive or negative the words identify the separation between us. What’s more, is we are all unique, and yet all similar. The main distinction is not our natural psychological, cultural, or physical make up, but probably how much of our weirdness or uniqueness we choose to show in public. We all have our own idiosyncrasies, individual experiences, and singular genetic code that make us all one of a kind. There is nothing terribly unique about any of our circumstances beyond the details of our arrangement.
The problem with believing we are unique is that it asserts an idea that we are all alone, and though we are all different in small ways, the most basic things about us are what make us all the same. The divisions we create are as superficial as the words we use to describe them and can only effect us in superficial ways. If we acknowledge our similarities first, we have a chance at connection, and building common goals. Then to achieve those goals we must assess our individual strengths and that not only causes a change in perspective but approach. We must ask if it serves us practically to maintain divisions when faced with a problem that will effect us all. We must also ask if it serves us scientifically to maintain divisions if we know ourselves to be made up of the same elemental materials. And finally we must ask if it serves us spiritually to assert that we are alone, not only in our hearts but in the universe.
These are all questions worth pondering, and what we stand to gain from doing could be a great shift in our perspective on ourselves and how we should navigate life.