15 minutes reading time (2904 words)
Many people feel that they are unique when in fact they are simply following another trend. When uniqueness is a trend, no one is very unique. Why aren't people just trying to be themselves? ...Well, how do you really do that? Read on.
Part 1 of 3: Having the Mindset
1 Know that you already are unique.
The fact of the matter is that we humans are pretty similar. Very few of us are true outliers. We all eat, and feel the same spectrum of emotion. However -- we, as individuals are unique. Not one of us is the same as anyone else because we are a combination of experiences, personality, and outlook that no one else has ever had or ever will have. If you want to be unique, congratulations. You already are. Seriously. Even twins don't share the exact same experiences. Even if they did, the experience would get filtered and interpreted differently in their heads and that's really the only place reality exists. No one has lived your life. No one ever will. So it's all the important to live it for you and to be yourself -- because you are what's unique. That's the concept we'll be exploring
2 Don't pursue "normal" or "trendy." The natural human inclination is to fit in. Ever heard of the Asch conformity experiments? They sit this one poor bloke down in a room where everyone else is in on the joke. Then they hold up two lines: one's the size of, say, your finger; the other is around the size of a ruler. Everyone's asked which one is longer, Those in on the joke say, "the finger-sized line, obviously." What does the uninformed soul do? He agrees. He knows it's wrong but he conforms anyway. It's human nature.
- That was a long-winded way of saying you're going to want to be like everyone else and that's fine. That's the way we're wired. When we're like everyone else, it's safe. It's like going to a restaurant because it's popular -- must be good then, right? Well, maybe, maybe not, but it certainly is a lot easier to make decisions that way. In short, it's fine to go along with the group, but make sure it's the wisest decision.
3 Don't pursue "abnormal" either. Pursuing any label, including unique, is fruitless. That's an egotistical drive to be different, to be better, really. There are a billion other people on this earth that are aiming for abnormal, too. Instead of sealing your fate like that of a hipster (what started off as anti-mainstream slowly became the norm), just aim for you. Whatever it is, it's good and true.
- It's easier to pursue no labels when you realize they don't exist. A quick trip to a foreign country will prove this in the first three seconds off the plane. Visit another culture vastly different from yours and see what they deem normal. Or just think about it your head right now. Odds are you can easily come up with a handful of things that would be "abnormal" in your society that are totally acceptable in theirs.
4 Be confident. Heads up: this entire article is going to be about making your own decisions and making sure your decisions are your own. In order to do that, you gotta be confident. First thing. If you're second-guessing your every move and looking to other people or things for direction, you're not you. The only thing in this world that is unique is you, so get on that.
- Telling someone to be confident is just about as effective as telling someone to disappear in a poof of air. It's a task that takes incredible determination and time. After reading the wikiHow article (if this is a point you need to work on), ask a few friends how they do it and what they did to become more confident. You'll be surprised how many people are working on it.
5 Be dependent on nothing. This one is hard -- as a human (and especially in today's society), we naturally thrive in a group. But to the extent that it's possible in your own life, see that you can live without plenty of things. For starters, that means no addictive habits. That just takes away from you, controls your urges and controls your emotions. No thank you.
- Easy steps to take are throwing out the fashion magazines, not doing things just because your friends want to do them, and finding your own opinions on hot topics instead of relying on the news or your circle to form them for you. However, you could take this much further to mean make your own clothes and cook your own food -- but the definition is up to you.
6 Reflect on what "being unique" means to you. This is a fairly abstract concept that has many faces. Take ten minutes to sit back and reflect on what it actually means to you. Do you want to just dress differently than everyone? Do you want to shun the political ideals of your culture? Do you want to have a personality that's so dynamic no one's quite sure how to peg you? What?
- Also meditate on the why. If you want to be unique because someone told you to, you're not off to a very good start. This has to be for you. What led you hear? What makes you feel like you're not unique? Answering your questions first will lead you on a quicker, more efficient path.
Part 2 of 3: Knowing Yourself
1 Find your values. Alright, because this article is about being you, we gotta find out just who you are. Do you know? Hopefully, because no one else does! What do you value across the board? In friends? In relationships? In products? In human culture?
- When you come up with a list of 10 or so things, these are what you should strive to be. These are not labels -- these are good qualities that are important to you. Whether it's honesty, justice, or high-quality denim, it's saying something. It's pointing you in the direction of your uniqueness.
2 Fight your insecurities. Another unfortunate aspect of being human is that at some point in our childhood, we become aware of others' judgment. Someone makes fun of our My Little Pony folder and it gets tossed in the trash. This sucks and it's totally unnecessary, but inevitable. We start developing insecurities and they take over. We become afraid of people and their words. Think about how silly that sounds!
- Our insecurities force us to play games. Instead of asking that boy or girl if they like us, we end up hinting, teasing, dancing around the topic and driving ourselves crazy. We're afraid of what they might say. If we just asked them, "Hey, do you like me?" everything would be simpler and we would probably be happier -- but most of us can't do that out of fear. Fighting this inclination is saying what you want to say, meaning what you say, and doing the things you want to do.
- The next time you don't do something because of the presence of someone else, do it (within reason of course -- don't go prance around naked at the Starbucks like no one's there). If someone else is inhibiting you, ask yourself why? Do you have a valid, rational reason? Or is it insecurity keeping you from being you?
3 Determine your goals. After you've determined your core values, it's time to get to your goals. What do you want to be? What do you want to do? How do you want to feel every day? Now, how might you accomplish these things?
- You might think this is superfluous -- maybe you're thinking, "What do my career goals have to do any of this?" Again, you're trying to pinpoint you. There is not another person in this universe who looks like you, acts like you, and wants to be a professional cake decorator in Australia and live life as adventurously as possible.
- Knowing your goals is the first step to achieving them. It's the first step to giving yourself direction. When you know your goals, you can pursue who you are. That unique you. That you that isn't a reflection of anyone else but you at your true core. Your actual wants and desires as opposed to the ones society tells you to have.
4 Be aware of your own emotions. The keyword here is "your own." Okay, two keywords. Try not to be influenced by other people's emotions; spending too much time thinking about other people's thoughts can lead you away from your own. Most emotions are contagious -- how do you actually feel?
- Sometimes being around certain people turns us into someone else. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's bad. On a certain level, though, you should have a red flag going off in your head that's screaming "this is unnatural." Does that happen to you? What environments do you find yourself not listening to your own emotions and just going with the room? Pinpoint those. When you pinpoint them, you can do something about it.
5 Know your opinions, while being open to suggestions. Don't say something for the sake of saying it. Instead, take a moment after a conversation starts to think about what you know and what resonates with you, then begin talking. Try to listen to what other people are saying without being sucked in, and without immediately casting aside their ideas. An engaging debate can be fun, stimulating, and teach you a lot about your own values.
- It's tempting to gossip or complain to bond with others. If there's one thing all of us are good at, it's those two things. Think about the negativity though. Do you actually feel that way? Or did that person spin it in a light that made you want to agree? Take in their opinion, but assess it on all sides. Some people can be quite intoxicating -- are they right or are they just charming? Get yourself alone and evaluate your original opinion. If you want to change it, great! That means you're open-minded. Just know why you're changing it!
6 Have the power to think independently. Don't give in to peer pressure, whether it be your parents, friends or teachers. Be skeptical and explore ideas for yourself. As the Syfy channel, George Carlin, and a bajillion others have said, "Question everything." Whether it's your religion, your take on democracy or your feelings toward Brussels sprouts (maybe you actually like them...), think about it. What was handed to you and what's something you've actually given thought to?
- This can be quite disconcerting. You may find that you don't agree with your parent's religion or your country's ideals or all your friends' tastes in music. Know that this will be jarring initially if you do encounter something in your brain that was planted there (imagine realizing you've been incepted). But it's challenging and it will lead to growth.
Part 3 of 3: Putting It into Action
1 Stop playing games. So we talked about fighting your insecurities and how insecurities lead to games. Those games need to stop! They're a direct result of people telling you how to behave or instilling some worry in you that's keeping you from your actual desired behavior. Instead, take that list of values you have and take a deeper look. How might you act if you embodied those values in all your actions?
- By games, if it wasn't clear yet, we mean saying or doing one thing and meaning another. When you say, "God, I'm so fat. I can't believe it," you're actually saying, "I feel fat. Please tell me I'm not." Some of these games are asking for attention, some of these games are manipulative, some of these games are just seeking information, but either way, they're not you. So there's no place for them in your uniqueness.
2 Dress for yourself. Avoid trying to dress to please others. If you follow fashion trends that you don't actually like, it will be harder to make connections because you'll be wearing a false shell. Instead, dress to suit your personality and your tastes. Why would you do anything other than that?
- Sure, to a certain extent, shopping in stores means adhering to trends. It wouldn't be on the racks if people didn't think it would sell. But you have so many options nowadays, you can assemble a style all your own. You don't have to be hipster, you don't have to be eclectic, you just have to like what you wear because it's you.
- Buy things that you like, look good in, and most importantly, need. If you want to be unique, avoid buying clothes just for the label. You'll look like everyone around you, and your clothing won't reflect your personal style or tell others about who you are
3 Stand up for yourself. When the time comes for an opinion (and those times crop up often), standing up for yourself must be done to showcase your individuality. How can you be unique if you don't stand for anything? As Katy Perry eloquently puts it, "I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything." If someone contests your opinions, don't automatically budge. Ask them their reasons for disagreeing -- are they rational? If so, take a moment to think about it. It's possible they're right. Standing up for yourself does not mean you shouldn't be open-minded! Assert yourself initially and analyze the situation. Maybe there is a better way
4 Let haters hate. There are gonna be haters. There are always gonna be haters. And that's awesome! Having haters means you're doing something. You're out there and doing something that someone doesn't approve of. Fantastic! How better to do something and be hated than doing nothing at all. And you know what? That's no skin of your nose. Let them handle their negativity. It has nothing to do with you.
- As Elbert Hubbard says, “Do nothing. Say nothing. Be nothing.” By being judged, you're on their radar. Being a target means you're not reveling in obscurity. It means you're pursuing you and not blending in. Fan-freaking-tastic.
5 Try new things. In the same way that you should be open-minded to others' opinions, you should be open to new activities! As children, we are often stuck only exploring the world our parents present for us. When we grow up, we need to explore for ourselves, finding what we actually do and do not like. You can't have opinions on things you know nothing about -- and no opinions, no preferences? That's definitely not unique. Try to do something new every week. Whether it's getting up and doing karaoke, trying that new Palestinian restaurant, or reading a book you would never normally read, do it. You will find things you like and your personality will grow
6 Educate yourself. Along with trying new things, learn new things, too! There's an entire world out there that you don't know about (many, actually). Pick up a book that you'd never otherwise give a passing glance. Spend an hour on wikiHow looking at random titles. Expanding your horizons will introduce you to things you didn't even know you enjoyed. The Internet is an absolutely fantastic resource. There are so many resources out there to start learning. Simple things like "Today In History" or Khan Academy can get you started and are totally fun and effortless. The more knowledge you have, the more unique it is to you
7 Make a target of yourself. A while ago we mentioned how haters only exist when we actually do things. We talked about how the haters shouldn't affect us -- now we're talking about actually attracting them. Not purposefully; they'll show up on their own when you do something notable. So make a target of yourself by doing something that puts you out there. Some people will love it and others will hate it. Cool.
- You don't have to be a performer. You don't have to be a painter, a writer, or anything that literally puts your work on display (though that would be great). It can be as simple as making your opinions known. Getting your voice heard is something so many people are afraid to do. It doesn't matter how you do it, so long as you do.
8 Do things that you sincerely enjoy. Try a hobby or a sport that you've been wanting to participate in. When you do the things you love, you tend to meet people that are more in tune with you and will be compatible friends in the long run. And you'll be happier, too. All of a sudden everything will seem to jive.
- Along the same lines, don't do things you don't enjoy! If your friends wanna go dance to techno music while getting schwasted and wearing neon and side ponytails and you're just not feeling it on a Tuesday morning, don't do it. Do your own thing. Maybe you wanna spend your Tuesday morning contemplating Picasso's blue period. Maybe you wanna make waffles. Maybe you wanna organize your Tupperware. If you'd enjoy it, go for it. Listen to yourself! Only you know what would make you happy.