Why am I different from everyone else?

a box of white eggs with one 'different' red one

“Why am I different?” – It’s a question I get asked a lot by my clients about themselves. “‘I try to be like everyone else. I try to fit in. I wear the kind of clothes that other people my age wear. I join in with the conversations that go on and try to look like I am totally on their wavelength. I pretend to be interested in all the things they like to do, and I take part in the socials. I turn up for the charity events and I even turn a blind eye to the things that make me uncomfortable.

“I don’t agree with some of the things people say, and some of it is just so wrong, on so many levels. I daren’t say anything though, so I just smile politely. That makes me feel really bad inside. It just emphasises even more that I am different, and I don’t think people would like me if they knew what I am really like.”

This is an example of the sort of thought process that people go through. Others may describe different situations where they feel they are different, but there are certainly are some common threads:

  • being embarrassed about your hobbies
  • feeling like you don’t fit in
  • being self-conscious
  • afraid to speak up when you don’t agree
  • feeling like you are on the outside

I totally get it, because I still feel like that now sometimes. There are deep parts of me that I would not share with any but the closest people because I know they are not part of the ‘norm’ in society. They are not ‘mainstream’.

You ARE different, and so is everyone

Part of the reason I find myself asking why I am different from everyone else is that I AM different. You are different simply because you are a seperate entity. You are a seperate person with a seperate mind, and it is unavoidable to be different.

Think of something as simple as a mug. Look at any mug in your kitchen. Mugs are mass produced, functional objects. They have pretty much one job, and although there are many designs over the mug population, there are millions of copies of most designs. Yet even two mugs that look exactly the same are different. They are made up of a completely different set of atoms and molecules. If you were to look at them under a powerful microscope they would all look different. Even if you could somehow align all the individual particles of every mug to be exactly the same, there would stil be a diffrence. Each individual mug occupies its own space. You can’t have two mugs in exactly the same space at the same time. So even a mass produced mug can feel different, if it chooses to focus on that difference.

Focus on being different and you get difference

So part of the reason you feel different, is because you are. If you choose to focus on the ways in which you are different then you will be incredibly successful at noticing that difference.

Too tall, too short, too black, too white, too fat, too thin, too shy, too confident. The list can go on forever.

Chunk up a level and change your focus. As individuals, we are all different, but we are all human beings. We have similar ways of experiencing the world. Our brains work in essentially similar ways. Our bodies respond to the environment through the same set of senses.

This principle is fundamental to my work as a therapist and coach. If the underlying aspects of human nature did not follow some sort of pattern or model, it would be impossible to develop and use tools and techniques to help someone. That isn’t to say that we work to a simple formula and one technique will work for every person. However there are patterns of behaviour and our minds work in similar ways.

Difference is what makes us interesting

One client said to me ‘I can’t get on with the other guys at work. They all love football and I don’t, so they find me boring!’

Now on the subject of football you may not have anything very interesting to say. But you might be able to ask a lot of questions. From their point of view there is nothing boring about them being able to tell you about something they love. If you all liked the same thing, that would be boring.

Some of the most interesting conversations happen when someone talks about something nobody else has experienced or understands. And the more unusual, the better. If I tell someone that I’m a naturist, probably not many people will say the same thing, but you can guarantee the conversation will be interesting!

It’s nice to be part of the crowd sometimes, but to be interesting, you need to stand out. That means taking risks and being more open about who you are.

If you keep hiding the parts of your personality that don’t quite fit, you might even start losing your personality altogether and becoming more two-dimensional.

Difference is potential and purpose

At a deeper level, when coaching, clients are often struggling to get clarity about what they want to do in life. Or if they have some idea of what they want, they are plagued with uncertainty about the best way to go about it.

At times like these, it is often by exploring what is unique about that client, that we ultimately discover their direction in life. If you have a passion for something that is different from everyone else, then you have a niche. And if you have a niche, you have the potential for a business, or greater clarity in what your work might ultimately be.

Often this difference is made up of several interests or aspects of your personality combined. Someone who is interested in gardening on it’s own, has a business or a job,potential certainly. Someone who has an interest in gardening and fashion, might have a bigger business idea. If you have an interest in gardening, fashion and a passion for combating global warming – what sort of business or work might that lead to?

So when you notice that nagging question ‘why am I different?’ come up:

  1. Chunk up and pay attention to what things are the same.
  2. Use the difference as an opportunity to learn about other people
  3. Celebrate your differences and recognise yourself as a unique individual
  4. Discover the hidden value of the things that motivate you and what those things could do for your life if you embraced them.

There is a great piece on Tiny Buddha with more tips on how to handle being different.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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