Many times, a question, “Is Being Different A Good or A Bad Thing?” has been asked around the internet. If the answer is affirmative, then why being different is good, and vice versa. People throughout the world are still in a fix and could not reach to the same stand regarding the issue whether being different is right or bad. Well, The answer depends on how you interpret it. To me, without any doubt, it is a good thing, though have some exceptions too. But How?
Before entering to the controversial issue, let’s clarify what being different is.
What Does Being Different Mean?
According to dictionary.reference.com Being Different Means, “not identical; separate or distinct”.
Being different means being something that is not common or average, that hardly resembles the existers. It is something that doesn’t go with the current flow.
Being different means seeing things in a new way, in your very own way, not just from a different angle. It means doing things in a way that has never been done or thought of before. It doesn’t mean doing things the other way round.
Being different means breaking new grounds in issues which the world don’t see as relevant. Being different is like being a free bird compared to a world of caged birds. As the person who wants to be different, your task is to show people that they are caged, no matter how big the cage is.
Being different is freeing the mind from what society dictated on us. Being different is searching for your identity and discovering who you truly are.
Some Related Terms
Some confusing terms come up on this topic, being different.
• Being unique; this means you are the only human who can be you. There is only one of you.
• Being yourself; this is having the confidence to understand that you matter. Trying to walk, talk or think like someone else is a recipe for disaster.
• Standing out; this refers to getting noticed. Seeking attention is not necessarily a bad thing but if taken too far becomes an undesirable trait.
• Individuality; we all have our skills, characteristics, mannerisms and thinking patterns that define who we are. It is our individuality.
There is a strong relation among these terms. When you stick to your ‘being yourself’ and never let your ‘individuality’ be shaped up or influenced or destroyed by others, you remain ‘different’ from the rest. And this helps you ‘stand out’ from the crowd and to ‘be unique’.
Why Are You So Different?
The process of being different can be categorized into two groups for better understanding: Natural & Consequential.
Every human being born as a different individual naturally. No other person has the same DNA, eye pupils or fingerprints as you. People are born with own states of mind, own intelligence level, own ways of thinking, in a word, with own individuality.
But in the process of growing up, in most of the person’s cases, that individuality is shaped up, consciously or unconsciously, being influenced by the surroundings, family members or society, only to fit in, to conform with the rest, to go with the flow. Thus, that ‘born individuality’ turns into a ‘modified identity’, most of the time, without even being noticed, recognized, or understood.
But there are still some individuals, though they are very few in numbers, never let their individuality go away. They don’t adjust or adapt to look like the others. They just stick to their ‘being own self’. They think, act and react in their very own way. And they are the ‘Naturally Different Individuals’.
These Naturally Different Individuals can again be classified into two groups.
- Positively Different
- Negatively Different
As far your differences make you happy, and don’t become the reason of anyone’s pain and sufferings, they are positive. But when your differences start causing harms for both yourself and surroundings, they are no longer positive and thus accepted at all.
In some later part of the article, we will discuss it in more details.
Unlike the Naturally Different Individuals, some human beings appear as ‘different’ due to various consequences. Let us get the obvious reasons that result in people not fitting in.
• Pretension or imitation; the process of being different becomes unnatural when a person intentionally tries to be different, or pretends or imitates to be like someone different, perhaps being fascinated by their success, uniqueness or anything else.
But pretension or imitation mostly doesn’t bring any good, rather kills one’s identity. The words of Osho, an Indian mystic, guru, and spiritual teacher can be referred here.
Each person is born with a unique individuality, and each person has a destiny of his or her own. Imitation is crime, it is criminal. If you try to become a Buddha, you may look like Buddha, you may walk like him, you may talk like him, but you will miss. You will miss all that life was ready to deliver to you. Buddha happens only once. It is not in the nature of things to repeat. Existence is so creative that it never repeats anything. You cannot find another human being in the present, in the past, or in the future who is going to resemble you exactly. It has never happened. The human being is not a mechanism like Ford cars on an assembly line. Never imitate anybody…” –The Book of Understanding
• Low self-esteem and confident issues; A person may become different due to a lack of self-esteem. Voicing your ideas and standing up for what you believe in is crucial for self-awareness. You can pump up your esteem by accepting and bettering yourself by reading, practicing your skills and positive friendships.
• Teenage/ Adolescence years: particularly from the age of 12- 16 many teenagers become aware of their differences to their peers. It is healthy and a natural thing. But some young people will blow this out of proportion leading to serious anti-social behavior. Teenagers should understand that they get only one chance to be young. They should concentrate on their likes and interests. Developing their skills should be more important than trying to fit in. Later in life they will get friends and relationships that suit them.
• Drug abuse; cocaine, alcohol, meth, heroin and other drugs can cause you to be an outcast in society. Drug abuse is a serious problem which should be addressed in the possible early stage. Drugs cause our brains to react in unusual ways. Drug addicts tend to stick together, a behavior that is seen as not conforming to society.
• Mental disorders; various mental conditions cause the person to be socially dysfunctional and different. The common ones are schizophrenia, severe depression, anxiety and Asperger’s disease. A trained psychiatrist can only diagnose this disorders.
• Lack of friends; Human beings are a social people. When somebody does not have friends, it is assumed that he is different in some way. The remedy for this is one friend at a time. Instead of trying to fit in a group look for one friend, a person you can relate to.
• Cultural; with the world becoming more of a global village many cultures that were millions of miles away are now next door neighbors. Cultural differences mostly manifest themselves by dressing choice, diet, lifestyle and family values. Being culturally different is a positive difference as we cannot all talk, dress and act the same.
There are many reasons why a person can be different from others. What matters is whether it is a positive or negative difference.
Being Different: Good or Bad?
Being different is undoubtedly good when the process is natural and obviously when the differences are positive. It is something admirable because it requires courage, patience, dedication, determination to stick to the path of being different. Everyone doesn’t possess enough confidence and will power to deal with his differences. Consequently, everyone can’t be different, rather ends up his life being an ordinary, average person.
Why Being Different is Good?
A question may arise naturally, “Why am I supporting being different?” or to be more precise, “Why being different is good?”
Well! Let me explain my point of views.
God Himself Has Made Us Differently
Look at the other fellows around you, the man enjoying his coffee in the cafeteria or the boy waiting restlessly for his girlfriend or the girl giggling and gossipping with her friends.
Are they all same?
Are you totally resemble them?
Definitely NO. We all are different as God has made us so. He has blessed us with our skin, own eyes, own hands, and legs, own intelligence, own ways of thinking, own states of mind. Even twins are never completely identical. So, every person born as a ‘different’ and unique human being, and it’s God Himself who decided to create us with ‘own ownness.’
Differences Make Us Human
We cannot all fit in one group. It is our differences that make us human. As long as you are not hurting the people close to us, and you’re able to live your life happily, then there’s nothing wrong in being different. It is known as a positive difference.
The world is full of great examples of people who achieved a lot of success in spite of their differences. It can even be argued that some great people like Napoleon, Dda Vinci, and Winston Churchill achieved what they did due to their differences. The faith they had in their skills, background and thinking ability enabled them to see solutions that the majority of the “normal” people could not see.
When Being Different Is Good?
Being different is good, but apparently as long as your differences don’t cross the line.
Your differences are big if;
- They come to you naturally.
- They make you happy. Anything that makes you happy and is not destructive to the people around you is positive.
- They make you stand out. Contrary to popular belief, humans are happier when they stand out from the crowd. It makes us special in our way.
- They make you creative. There is nothing that can spur your creative juices like being unique, thinking outside the box.
- They inspire others. People’s minds are opened up when they see something different.
- They make you attractive/interesting. Anything that makes you feel good will inevitably increase your self-esteem.
When Being Different Is Bad?
It is when your differences and dissimilarities to the rest of the society, keep you back from truly being all you can be, that a warning bell should go off. It is important for you to learn to live due to your differences, not in spite of them. They should be positive, an engine to drive your life, not negative; a curse to crucify you every morning.
Your differences are negative if;
- They are a result of an unnatural process like you try, pretend or imitate to have them in yourself.
- They cause stress, depression, Anorexia, Bulimia or anxiety. Trying too much to fit in is the primary cause of the above conditions. Accepting yourself is a process that happens slowly with much effort. But in the long run, will enable you to live stress-free.
- They harm those around you. Family members are especially prone to this. You have to learn to live in harmony with others despite your differences.
- They impede your growth. Whether it is emotional, physically or financially, your differences should build you up not destroy you.
- They interfere with your relationships. While in the teenage years, our differences might prevent us from enjoying friendships and meaningful relationships, in adulthood these shouldn’t be the case.
Strengths of Being Different
Your differences can undoubtedly become your strengths if you deal with them correctly. How can they be your strengths? Let’s have a look.
Being Different Is Being Yourself
Being different is nothing but retaining and nourishing that God gifted uniqueness throughout our lives. In short, being different is ‘being yourself’.
It might seem easy, but in a practical sense, it’s not. It’s one of the toughest jobs. In the process of our growing up, willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously, we throw away our ‘ownness’ and put on a mask of another only to fit in, to be similar to others. William Shakespeare rightly says, “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.”
But if you succeed to ‘be yourself’, that is the only thing that makes the difference. It helps shape your thoughts in your way, produces actions using your own intellectual, reach to your goal depending on your spirit. ‘Being yourself’ reduces your tendency to follow others, and thus helps to create a strong position for yourself in any field.
Being Different Is Being Unique
People dream and strive to be identified as unique. But unfortunately, he fails to understand, his being ‘himself’ eventually leads him to be unique.
Clinging successfully to one’s ownness and retaining individuality makes a person distinguishable from the crowd with similar traits. His ability to think or act or react differently from the average makes him unique.
Being Different Is Creating Own Identity
Being different helps to create an own identity in the long run. It allows standing out from the mass with one’s individuality.
When a person can think outside of the box or response entirely differently from the fellows whether in the study, job, research, invention or any other field, he becomes an exemplary figure, a distinct individual with rare talent. And thus, not letting yourself wander with the flow, you can create your identity, a thing that every person cherish to have.
Being Yourself Is Being Confident
Confidence is the name of that touchstone which makes the road to achieving goals less complicated. When you are sure that you can, you can.
But confidence is not that easy to earn. When you believe in yourself, you have trust in your works and decisions; you will feel a spirit in your heart. And this confidence helps you go a long run in life.
Being Yourself Is Being Independent
At the time you succeed to develop a confidence regarding your skill, your decision taking power, your way of thinking, your dependency on others will diminish to a great extent. You will be able to work, to decide, to lead independently by believing in your ‘being yourself.’
Being Different Is Being Determined
When you are conscious about your differences and do know well how and where to lead them, you will feel determined. Because you know your goal. You know what to achieve. This determination drives you to achieve something that the average people don’t dare to pursue. And the process altogether makes you a unique one.
The Other Side Of The Coin
But unfortunately, every coin has two sides. While being different should be encouraged and conformity discouraged, in some situations being different is dangerous.
Being different is dangerous if;
- Your difference leads to hatred. Remember just as you are different and expect to be accepted, others are also different from you, accept that.
- Your isolation might lead you to drug abuse. There are many people want to be different but end up as drug addicts.
- By being different, you develop your mental problems or any other diseases.
- You cannot function completely. While being different is good, humans are social beings, and at one point you’ll have to relate with your kind.
Society Doesn’t Think Outside of The Box
While tolerance is preached in the society and differences should be embraced, it is quite the opposite in reality. When an individual does not conform to the accepted societal norms, he or she is faced with a barrage of criticisms. If you do not want to be like everybody else, be ready to face varying levels of suspicion or downright discrimination. It is not that other people are necessarily bad or evil. Society just doesn’t welcome differences; people fear what they don’t understand.
Being Different in Various Situations
Whether be in the family, society, educational institutions, workplace, or even in a relationship, different people are not welcomed mostly. We become so judgemental regarding them that it takes no time to tag them as weird, peculiar or awkward.
Being different in the family can bring deep emotional divides. When one sibling is more active or more outspoken than the rest, it causes concern. Even being more financially endowed or unstable can be a cause of deep-rooted issues. Family members that are seen to be straying from the family system are viewed with distrust, envy, disgust and impossible expectations set upon them. A person who wanted to be different might sabotage his or her intentions when they don’t get the family’s approval. Many parents are unaware of the damage they inflict on their children by urging them to conform more to the society. The remedy for this situation is tolerance; accepting others without judging their choices.
In A Relationship
When two people commit to each other, they enter into a relationship. After the initial excitement of being with a person, you love away, reality sets in. Conflict can easily set in when there are distinct differences in their values. Relationships in the modern era are filled with many expectations. These expectations can be dangerous to personal happiness and the relationship itself. This is especially so if one partner has a superiority complex and he or she demands changes in the other. This is ground for endless arguments. It is good to learn how you differ from your partner, and whether you’re comfortable. Open conversations and a humble attitude while dealing with your partner should solve the problem.
Being different from the other students in school is a two-edged sword. On one hand it is a good mechanism for children to defend themselves against peer pressure, a well-known cause of drug abuse. On the other hand, different kids are often given labels and serious issues like bullying and assault can arise. Teenagers should learn to have confidence in themselves and not strive to fit into a particular group.
Problems Faced By A Different Person
The most common problem that a different person faces in the society is the issue of discrimination and suspicion. Society automatically assumes that a person has a sinister reason for being different. Other issues different people face are;
- Lack of meaningful relationships and friends.
- Social awkwardness. Different people feel left out.
- Relationship and dating problems. Having gotten used to the idea of being alone, they might find it hard to interact with the opposite sex.
- Hard to get employment. Not fitting into the suit and tie group, different people might find it difficult to get a job.
- Fitting in problems. Most different people do not fit into any group.
How To Deal With Being Different
Being different is not just a fairy-tale you dream of, it’s a path you have to walk despite the difficulties you may face. It’s a flower that awaits to flourish and blossom, but it first needs to be nurtured, it needs to be looked after.
It requires confidence to be yourself when the society continuously drags you behind, tries to turn you into someone else. You have to face the difficulties
- Dedication and Commitment
Being different requires dedication and commitment. It’s an idea that you have to be prepared to defend at all costs. Being different is a process that takes you out of your comfort zone. Society is afraid of change, especially if it believes that its current state is heaven. If the difficulties make you change your path, you lose. All you have to do is keep moving forward with commitment and dedication.
It is important for society to be clear that being different is good. People who don’t adhere to our unwritten laws about fitting into a group should be understood. Society should be aware that we cannot all be the same, people should not be discriminated just because they’re different. This applies to schools, workplaces and even in our families. Being different is what makes us all so unique. Nobody is similar to another.
Life belongs to the brave-hearted. Those that are not ashamed or afraid to tread on dangerous grounds and swim in deep waters have lived life to the fullest. Be courageous and dare to be different.