Lesson # 14: We are “one-of-a-kind” in the entire universe
“There exists only one me in the entire universe, a one-time edition that will never be duplicated ever again.” Have you ever pondered this fact about yourself? Take a moment and really consider this. Amazing isn’t it? How wonderful it is that each of us is unique, like every star in the sky—we are not mass produced. We have something in us no one else has, right down to our finger prints. So why do we try so hard to fit in? Why do we compare ourselves with our neighbors? Why do compete with one another? It doesn’t make sense, does it? And yet, that is what most of us do.
When we were babies, adults treated us as someone special. My mother told me I was an extraordinary baby who teased those who visited me at the hospital by sticking my tongue out. I was a toddler who would make rounds at night to check who was asleep and who was still awake by poking them. But by the time I was in kindergarten, I was no longer allowed to be one-of-a-kind. Everyone was taught to behave in a certain way, dress in a certain way, think in a certain way. Whenever I behaved in ways that didn’t conform to our traditions, family rules, or religious beliefs, I would be corrected or punished or ridiculed. It was not easy for the younger me to understand the reasoning behind it but I knew that if I wanted to be loved, I needed to change my behavior. So I spent a lot of time after that trying to fit in, to be approved, and to be accepted. I failed many times, of course. I knew the pain of rejection like the back of my hand.
When I met my husband in 1992, I was determined to show him that I was one-of-a-kind and that his approval was not needed. I told myself that if he didn’t like me, I wouldn’t be any worse off. To my surprise, he didn’t reject me! That was a first. But it had a lasting impact on me. I learned then that I was okay just the way I was.
After he died, grief blocked the access to the part of me who believed that I was one-of-a-kind. No wonder I was filled with fear—fear of not surviving, fear of failing, fear of never being good enough to succeed here in the States when competing with others who I perceived as more educated, more familiar with how “the system works,” more experienced in whatever their field was. I began to compare myself with those who were better supported socially, from a higher socioeconomic background, and more sophisticated in every way. Comparing myself in this way made me feel inferior. As we all know, when we feel inferior we behave in an inferior manner—we don’t dream big, we don’t expect much of ourselves, we don’t take risks, we play small and aim low. And of course we only accomplish small victories. When we consistently experience this, we come to believe this is all we are meant to be. This is now our comfort zone.
But life is meant to be lived in a big way, all the way. Each of us has the capacity to live our best lives using the unique gift God has given us. We don’t all have the same gift. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that some gifts come wrapped in sand paper. But they are still gifts nonetheless. It is up to us how we open and discover our gifts. Instead of envying someone else’s gift, it is better to focus on our own gift and find the many ways to best use that gift to be of service to others. This is the only way we will find life meaningful.
When we think of our unique gift in this way, there is no need to change ourselves to fit in anywhere. There is no need to compete with one another. There is no need to compare ourselves with anyone else. There is no need to feel superior or inferior to anyone else. There is only the strong drive to be the best version of ourselves.
I’m not sure how well I’ve mastered this lesson yet….it’s a tough one! I may have to re-take this course over and over. There have been times where I caught myself feeling jealous of others who were happily married, or envious of their good fortune or big success. I still find myself feeling not good enough whenever I scroll through Facebook posts and learn about what others have done, achieved, and created, even how many likes they have received for their posts. Sometimes I still compare myself with women who are fit and beautiful, more pulled together, and more popular. Of course, if I remember to take the time to pause and apply some self-compassion, I can usually return to who I am again and feel better about myself.
Sure there are many people out there who can do what I can do, but there is only one me who can do it my way. There may be many single mothers, widows, therapists, who are Asian and a dancer, but no one has the same exact story, personality, and purpose in life quite like mine. This doesn’t mean I am better or worse than the rest of them; it just means that I have something that makes me unique. There will be people who like me instantly, those who don’t, and those who never will—not because I am so great, or not good enough or unlovable. But because we all have different preferences about someone or something at a particular time. And that is perfectly okay.
So get busy finding your special, unique, one-of-a-kind gift. Make the best of what you’ve got! The world is waiting for you!