tr.v., -lat·ed, -lat·ing, -lates.
1. To strive to equal or excel, especially through imitation: an older pupil whose accomplishments and style I emulated.
I once had a psychiatrist tell me, “Jared, find someone successful you admire and do what they do.” My inner voice said, “You’re full of crap lady. I’m unique, I’m going to do great things. I don’t know anyone who is going to be as successful as me.”
I was suffering from terminal uniqueness. I consistently found myself in conflict with everything and everyone. I was “a part from” as opposed to “a part of” humanity. Not until I realized I wasn’t so different was I able to open my heart to all that was around me.
“Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else””
– Alison Boulter
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m unique in many ways, and for those I am grateful. But by recognizing the similarities with others, I’m more able to understand them, help them, and learn from them. When I view myself as completely unique, I’m probably thinking about myself and I’m not in the moment. Real life happens in the moment. One of the most valuable lessons in learning how to be happy, is how to be content with oneself in any given moment.
Here are some things I use to remind myself I’m not so unique:
During a conversation, I often get this inner voice that reminds me of all the great things I have to share. I’m so important, they’re going to be blown away by what I have to say on the subject… Basically I’m waiting for a chance to talk instead of listening.
When this happens, I try and remind myself to pay attention. I tell myself that if what I have to say is really that important, I’ll remember it when it’s time for me to share. I then just let it go and get back to listening. It takes practice. And yes, these thoughts happen in a split second so I usually don’t miss any of the conversation.
Looking for the similarities in others
The idea that a problem I face is so unique, that no one else has ever been faced with such a problem, is ridiculous. If I’m only focused on how I’m different from others, I’m separating myself. Once I separate myself, I lose the ability to learn from them.
No man is an island
By separating myself from others with an unrealistic view of uniqueness, I’m placing myself above or below them… “I’m better than..” or “I’m worse than…” By learning to accept myself completely, I no longer need to compare myself to others… as much. I still do it from time to time, but more often than not I catch myself.
There’s nothing wrong with viewing oneself as unique. After all, there is no one exactly like you or I. However, when I’m so unique I separate myself from everyone, it becomes detrimental to my spiritual growth and happiness. Finally, after years of struggling to fix my own “unique” problems, I took the suggestion of that psychiatrist from many years ago. I found someone that had something I wanted, and simply asked them to show me how they got there. It worked.
photo credit: Knokton