If you’re like me, you get a little cynical sometimes about statements like, “Always remember you’re unique” and you add the “just like everyone else!” with heavy sarcasm.
But, no matter how much sarcasm you pour on, the truth is you are unique.
As teenagers, we didn’t necessarily want to be unique because it meant we didn’t fit in with the people around us. Our uniqueness felt more like a liability than an asset.
Maybe by now, though, we’d like to be unique, but we think we don’t have anything new to offer. A deadly habit of comparing ourselves to others becomes ingrained and we begin to think it’s all been done before.
Either of these two mindsets can keep us from acknowledging and pursuing our callings.
While I think we overcome our overwhelming need to fit in as we grow up, the second mindset that we don’t have anything to offer is much harder to overcome. In The Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle writes,“If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way.”
And T.S. Eliot referred to this problem in his poem “East Coker V”
“And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
It’s encouraging for me, as writer, to know that even these remarkable literary greats battled comparison. As both of them show, the point is that there is no competition. When we start focusing on comparison, we stop believing we’re unique. The point is that we need to try. If we don’t try, we waste the opportunity to make something from what we’ve been given.
Believing in uniqueness helps you accept that you have something to offer the world; it helps you to embrace your calling. So it’s time to put away your cynical sneer and think about some ideas or interests you’ve abandoned because of “it’s all been done before” reasoning.
If it wasn’t a competition and you couldn’t compare yourself to anyone, what interests, activities or ideas would you pursue?