You know how sometimes the same message gets conveyed to you over and over again, but you don’t actually hear it until you are in a state of mind that allows you to receive it?
Well, yesterday I watched a TED talk by Mel Robbins and her message resonated quite loudly. Although there was an immediate “oh darn, she is talking about me”, it wasn’t until many hours later that I could feel the tectonic plates of my consciousness shift, throwing me out of my regular thinking patterns and wreaking havoc in my brain.
What is crazy is that the actual statements weren’t all that earth shattering. She cited research by scientists, who calculated that the chances of us being born when and where we were, with the DNA we have and to the parents we have, are 1 in 400 trillion. My brain took this statement further contemplating how all the different genes that came together to build us as a human being can never be exactly reproduced. Add to that the different environment that each of us grows up in, the lessons we learn along the way, and the experiences that form our beliefs and values. It all results in each one of us being totally unique. No one will ever be exactly like me.
First of all that is amazing and makes me feel very special. If you are reading this, you are one of the special people, who had the very fortune of being born and still being alive today. I wish we would allow ourselves to be proud of this simple fact more often.
Although, I am floating on this high of being alive today, I could not prevent to look around and wonder about how our society undermines our uniqueness on a regular basis. I am going out on limb stating that I believe that deep inside we all want to feel special and like there is no one else quite like us.
But when you look at our school system, our work environment or the way we are governed, it will give you the impression that despite our unique traits we can all be arranged into predefined categories. And often these are not categories that are designed by us. These are categories put in place for example by marketers, who first label us and group us with others to then sell us a product that promises to set us apart from the rest. How is that for reverse psychology? And in a lot of cases, once we have been labeled it can be hard to switch out of the assigned category. Think of switching from lower class to middle or upper class. Or the difficulty of losing the label of being a challenging kid. Or the hurdles we face getting a promotion, when our employer does not see the same path for us as we do.
Why is it that it seems so much easier for others to look at us and immediately analyze us and place us in a drawer with others they have assigned the same label to? It is because our human brain likes to compartmentalize. There is only so much information we can comprehend and categorizing the things we encounter allows everything to fit into the worldview that we have created for ourselves. Most humans prefer to live a life of predictability and understanding. Think about how often you have heard about the complications of implementing change. Things that can’t be categorized can threaten to destroy the comfort and safety we have created for ourselves.
But with comfort and safety comes complacency. Suddenly we allow ourselves to be grouped. We develop feelings of not “fitting in”, when we discover that we are not exactly like the other people in the group. Instead of celebrating the things we bring to the table that create a new and fresh perspective, we feel shame about the things that differentiate us from the rest. The resistance to experiencing change, can multiply the insecurities we might already hold about ourselves.
What if we shifted the perspective from being different from others to being a unique creation with insights and experiences that only we can share with the rest of the world?
What if we stopped to compare ourselves to others, but instead started to complement each other with the unique strength we each bring to the table?
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could build each other up rather than bringing each other down?