Many of us heard since we were children that we were unique and special. Inspirational sayings like “be yourself because everyone else is taken” and other similar sayings are very common. Yet when it comes to doing that, you are often confronted with adversity. It can sometimes feel like what everyone is actually saying is “be special but within these norms.”
Rather than being truly unique, you get categorized into certain acceptable types of people. When this happens, you get labels and cliques in larger communities. Others define you by the clothes we wear, the music you listen to, the job you do, and other attributes that have nothing to do with your personality. You may even start to define yourself this way rather than just being you.
Why is it So Hard to Be Different?
As human beings, we are social creatures. We often seek others like us and if we can’t find them we start to wonder if there is something wrong with us. It’s an uncomfortable feeling when you feel like you’re not “normal,” and most of us don’t enjoy that feeling. We want to belong. We want to feel accepted by our friends, families, co-workers, and peers.
Our fear of being “left out in the cold” is usually more than enough motivation to play it safe and submit ourselves to societal norms. We may choose to do something or not to do something based on how we think others will judge us. We make the mistake of measuring our success by what others see that we do or have and their approval rating.
Being different means making decisions others might not approve of. It means striking out and risking isolating ourselves. It also means taking paths no one has ever tried before and risk failing and getting ourselves hurt. No one likes to fail, and you hopefully don’t want to hurt yourself. Unfortunately, personal growth requires us to do precisely that, and it’s a terrifying prospect.
When others surround us, we also tend to adapt to their habits. Hearing other people’s perspectives isn’t a bad thing, but when we accept those perspectives without question and without making our own judgments, we end up limiting ourselves. The thing is that just because something is real for them doesn’t mean it’s also true for you.
How Can I Overcome My Fear of Being Different?
It’s not easy to overcome the fear of failing, nor is it easy to overcome the fear of being rejected by others to be true to yourself. The fact is, no matter how hard you try, there are going to be moments when you fail, and there will always be those who say you can’t, you shouldn’t, and you’re better off not trying. The only way to get over that fear is by putting it into perspective.
Think of the people you genuinely admire and respect. What is it that you admire and respect about them? Is it their morals? Their accomplishments? Their ability to overcome adversity? If it helps write down the names of those people and start writing words that describe them, as you go down the list, you’ll probably see some sort of patterns emerge.
If specific themes keep coming up, certain attributes that repeat themselves, it’s probably a good indication of what you value. Now relate it to the people you’re surrounded by in your life. Do they also possess those values? Do they share those characteristics? If not, why are you trying to impress them? Why are you worried about what they think if you don’t share their values anyway?
Putting things into perspective can also mean asking yourself a lot of questions. Here are some examples of the types of questions you can ask yourself
- What if you do fail?
- Is this decision something that is going to have a long-term future impact?
- Is this something you can’t recover from
- What if you do make a mistake?
- Is this a critical choice?
- What if you succeed?
- What would you accomplish by doing something different?
When you put things into perspective, choosing to be different and be true to you can be far less intimidating. Most choices you make are not life and death. When you face failure, chances are it’s not so damaging that it’s going to ruin your life. Taking calculated risks can boost your self-confidence because you realize you’re more capable than you thought you were.
What Are Some Guidelines for Being Different?
While it may seem strange to think, there are some guidelines you should try to follow even for being different. There’s a significant distinction between being different and being random.
Being random is doing something just because other people aren’t doing it. It serves no actual purpose in allowing others to see who you indeed are. It has nothing to do with your belief, your values, or your hopes. To be random is to do something for the sake of novelty. While this can certainly be fun and have its value, it’s not speaking to who you are as an individual.
We are all unique with our own experiences, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. Those factors shape who we are. Being different is really about being genuine and deliberate in being you and letting others see your true self as well. To be comfortable being different, here are some key points to keep in mind.
- Embrace who you are, don’t try to change to fit a mold
- Live and Let Live
- Don’t fear what you want and don’t ignore it
- Work with what you have
How Do I Embrace Who I Am?
If you want to be different, you need to value that which sets you apart from others. Think about your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, and embrace them! You are not your friends, your co-workers, or your parents. You have your own unique needs and desires. Don’t try to deny them, and don’t try to be someone else.
If you want to be different, you need to practice self-love. Learn to love and accept yourself the way you are and understand you are perfect in your imperfection. Many people suffer from feeling like they’re not enough, but they are. If you want to be different, believe that you are enough. Convince yourself you have what you need to handle things your way.
You have wisdom, intelligence, strength, and talents that nobody else has, and that’s all you need to see you through. To be different, trust yourself and understand that one problem can have multiple solutions. A solution someone else comes up with might not work for you, but being different means finding a solution that works for you.
What Does It Mean to Live and Let Live?
To be different, you need to live and let live. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to gain the approval of others. The fact is not everybody you meet is going to like or approve of you, and that’s okay. That’s not to say be mean or act like you’re better than others, but you can respect others and treat them civilly without agreeing with them.
Some personalities clash. Sometimes others have issues they need to work through in their own lives, and their attitude towards you isn’t a reflection on you at all. Whatever the case, the point is you can never gain the approval of some people, and you should never sacrifice who you are or your values to please others.
Most people are uncomfortable with something or someone different but don’t feel like you owe them any explanation of why you are the way you are or do the things you do. Being different doesn’t require you to prove yourself to anyone else. If you’re committed to being different, be humble about it, not self-righteous.
Someone who is genuinely comfortable being different doesn’t feel defensive. You shouldn’t feel like you need to justify yourself or prove why you are right, and someone else is wrong. Society expects everyone to comply with a specific set of norms, which means being different means doing the opposite and not falling into the trap of merely forcing your own set of standards on others.
How Can I Be Honest About What I Want In Life?
Being different means being honest about what we want in life. How many times in life do we choose something we don’t wish to because we perceive what we do want as the “wrong choice”? But looking back, few of those choices were actually questions of a moral nature. What made them “right” or “wrong” choices?
More often than not, it comes down to which choice intimidates you more or is more complex to carry out. The “wrong choice” is usually the one with the more difficult or less predictable outcome. Most people are going to make the choice that is easier with a more predictable result.
Being different requires you to embrace uncertainty and take on a challenge, even if you can’t predict the outcome. While this can be frightening, it will also allow you to accomplish more in life—those who have done amazing things. The people who are the most significant successes or do the most good in the world seldom play by the rules.
You need to listen to your heart’s true desire and follow where it leads. Different people are brave and tenacious. If you’re different, you face your fears head-on and are willing to live without certain things so you can have others. Every small victory will help build up your confidence, and your life will grow richer and happier because of it.
How Can I Work With What I Have?
If you want to be different, challenge the idea that there is only one way to solve a problem. Many people limit themselves and make excuses about why they can’t do things. If you want to be different, find a way to take action by replacing those limiting thoughts of “I can’t because…” to the question “What do I have to work with?”
It’s not about what you can’t do; it’s about what you can. Think about what resources are at your disposal and remember the most invaluable resource you have is yourself. Take the time to reflect on what you’re good at doing. What are your strengths? Then, use them to carve your path to where you want to go.
Remember, you can be your worst enemy or your best ally. Take an honest look at yourself, not as you wish you were, but as you are. See the good and the bad and go with it. Accepting and trusting yourself is the key to unlocking your potential and will help give you the confidence to abandoning the outlines prescribed by others so you can be different and find your correct path in life.
Does Being Different Mean You Always Have to Go It Alone?
Being different means being an individual, but it doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself. While the larger society will probably never accept you, that doesn’t mean you’re all alone. You are not the only person who finds the idea of following the status-quo unappealing. Search for other unique individuals who will support you and cheer you on.
If you admire someone and what they’ve done or accomplished, learn more about them through reading books about them. If the person you admire is alive today, check them out on social media and see who else is following them. You can enter into communities of like-minded people and engage with others around the world in discussions thanks to the miracle that is the internet.
You don’t have to stop with social media either. Look around for special interest groups for something you are interested in personally. Doing this is a great way to find people who share your beliefs and values, and it can give you a real boost when you realize you’re not the only person that larger society may consider crazy. While no two people are the same, two people can be compatible.
When you do something different, you never know who else may be watching and feel inspired by you. If someone shows an interest in you and what you do, feel free to open dialogue with that person. You don’t need to preach to them but talk to them in a nonjudgmental way. Remember, this world is full of people who love to make judgments about other people, and you can be different simply by not judging others.
What Are Some Other Ways to Be Different?
Being different doesn’t mean you have to quit your 9 to 5 job and take off on a backpacking trip across Europe. There are far more subtle ways of being different that can let your true personality show without doing something extreme and life-changing. It can be a way of expressing yourself verbally or nonverbally that is genuine to you.
Start small; something as simple as experimenting with combining different clothes to create your unique style is a simple way of letting your personality show and get your creative juices flowing. If you wear make-up, try doing the same thing with that as well. You can create for yourself an external image that reflects your individuality.
Another way you can be different is by making an unpopular choice. If there is someone at your workplace that others tend to ostracize reach out to them. Be a friend to someone who doesn’t have one. Don’t engage in the workplace or other community gossip. If everyone is talking about someone negatively, be the one to say something kind about that person.
Being different can also mean learning more about the world around you. In a world where there is an endless supply of information at your fingertips, thanks to the internet, it’s amazing how few people are curious about learning new things. If you want to be different, be a lifelong learner. Start a new hobby or take a course that looks interesting to you even if it’s not popular.
Does Making the Choice to Be Different Always Feel Good?
Being different doesn’t always feel good. There are days when you are going to be frustrated and wonder why you can’t just do what everyone else does. You may not always feel invigorated or energized about being different. Sometimes, being different can seem like a burden.
Being different is going to make you sometimes sweat. Unlike other people who do predictable jobs and follow predictable patterns, you might not know where your next paycheck is coming from and if you’re going to be able to pay the bills that month. You’re going to have sleepless nights when you feel alone and scared probably.
You may get your heart broken by rejection or a plan that falls through. You’ll have to push yourself to go the extra mile and pick yourself up when you fall. Your life is going to be a cycle of trying, risking, failing, and trying again as long as you learn something from each new experience, then those experiences are worth it.
Is it easy? Absolutely not, but understand that by blazing your trail, you are creating for yourself a deeper fuller life than anything that can be prescribed for you by someone else. Pain is part of the process, but so is pleasure. Others who play it safe may not feel the same pain you feel as you grow and change and learn new things, but neither will they have the chance at incredible victories.
What Should I Remember When Being Different is Discouraging?
When you’re feeling discouraged about being different, remember that no success story happens overnight. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg had no idea if they’d succeed when they started down a different path than society had prescribed for them. They just kept going. Nobody has a magic crystal ball that can tell you whether being different is going to put your name in the history books.
It’s also important to remember nobody just gets lucky. They make choices, and they work hard to pursue their vision of success. Sometimes our visions get sidetracked, but being different also means being open to new things and adjusting accordingly. Remember, people who choose to do the expected get stuck in a rut, and you might to the difference is you don’t stay there.
When your present state is less than ideal, take the long view. Sure you can do what everyone else does and it probably will save you a lot of pain and rejection. Following the norm can get you a steady job, a beautiful house, money, a couple of nice cars and…? That’s it, folks. It doesn’t allow you to fulfill your dreams unless your dream is to own a lot of stuff you can’t take with you when you die.
George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, and political activist, once wrote: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw died in 1950, but we still know his name and his work 70 years after his death. He is an excellent example of what being different looks like and what it can accomplish.
Is It Too Late To Start Being Different?
Being different is a choice that we can make at any point in our lives. Some people have already established a status-quo life than suddenly realize that the job they’ve been working isn’t their true passion and go back to school and start a whole new career. Being different is a mindset, not a series of tasks to accomplish.
For some being different isn’t an instant decision, but a whole process. Sometimes, being different means keeping sight of who you are, even when circumstances don’t allow you to leave your cookie-cutter life. Rather than losing yourself in being like everyone else, keep an eye out and wait for the right opportunity and work quietly away at your own goals even while leading an ordinary life.
If choosing to be different seems like too much to do all at once, try doing small things. Don’t be afraid if you’re a twenty-something-year-old who likes to knit, to attend a knitting group with a bunch of old ladies. If you’re an IT guy who’s always had a passion for theater, but you also have a family to support, try out for community theater where rehearsals are after work it’s still different.
If you’ve been playing it safe, being different can cause you anxiety. However, most of the time, we regret more the things we haven’t done, rather than the things we have. If you want to be different, start by being honest with yourself and others about who you are and what you want. You’d be surprised how many people have trouble doing that, but it’s the first step to set you free.
Any Final Thoughts?
Being different is really about being yourself and respecting yourself enough not to limit yourself. It takes confidence to be different. It will require you to be your cheerleader and your own advocate because others may not understand or approve of you and what you do. If you can find others who are unique, too, that’s great, but understand being different is often solitary.
Different people are self-aware; they know their strengths and weaknesses and work with them, not against them. To be different don’t waste time comparing yourself with others or seeking the approval of others. That’s what ordinary people do. They are more interested in keeping up with their neighbors than developing their own definition of success.
Being different isn’t easy, and it isn’t always comfortable, but people who make a conscious effort to be different understand it frequently is necessary. They know who they are and what they want in life and pursue it with vigor and determination. To be different, you need to consider what you value and why and live your life accordingly.
Being different requires you to follow four basic principles. They are what focus you and make sure that you are true to you. To recap to be different, you need to
- Embrace who you are, both the good and the bad
- Live the life you want and don’t worry what others do and say
- Don’t be afraid of making choices that seem hard
- Don’t make excuses find new solutions using what you have
Different people seek to live a life that has purpose and meaning to them, and they live deliberately every day. Some people who are different have dramatic success in life. The greatest innovators and influencers in the world were all considered different. However, whether their contributions to the world are big or small, the fact remains that people who are different are honest and open. They know who they are and what their intentions are, and reflect that as they move through the world.