Different isn’t better or worse

Funny how there is within us a simultaneous conflicting desire to be both the same as others but also different. The struggle to blend in yet also seeking to stand out of the crowd. I think that struggle can be traced back to childhood when our parents or caregivers initiated it with statements and questions about why we can’t be like so and so. I remember instances from early years when my brother and I (one year apart) were in the same primary school. In fact we were in the same stream therefore all the teachers he had taught me the following year. The ones who had been in the school a decade or so even remembered our older siblings. There was always the tendency to compare us. “I wish you were more like your brother…I wish he were more like you…you are different…it’s hard to believe that you’re siblings.” Instead of telling ourselves and others that it was a great thing and even one to be celebrated we instead feel shame (or pride if the comment suggested you were better or more superior).

Why should I be like him? Or vice versa. I am me and he is him. And you know what, that’s pretty awesome because God created us all different in some way. It’s not just a matter of fingerprint, our DNA is different. Yes of course we do have many things in common and we have similar needs like to be loved and to make a difference in the world. At the core we are made of the same stuff. We are one human kind. However we express that “kind” differently and bring our individuality to it. I think that makes the world more interesting to live in. No matter how awesome you are or think you are the world would be deathly boring if everyone was like you. Yeah, I said it. Sometimes we act like we wish everyone would just be like us, then the world would be a better place. Hmmm… Take a moment to see if you’re guilty of that. More so when you’re a perfectionist. I know I am. Guilty and a perfectionist – albeit in recovery. No one else can ever get it right. If only your spouse could be like you, or that child, or maybe your colleagues at work.

I ran into an old pal last week at a wedding and she mentioned that her baby is 6 weeks old so she wasn’t able to bring him along as I had done with mine. I proceeded to ask how motherhood was going so far to which she remarked “easy”. Eyes bulging out of my sockets I proceeded to ask what many of you may be thinking “Did you just say easy? You must not have heard the question. The sleepless nights, incessant crying, the whole shebang of the first few months (or years). Easy would not be on my list of adjectives.” She went on to explain how she’s had the support of her mom, sister and housekeeper. Interestingly she said that people always reacted like it was a crime to get more sleep than those of us who may not have had those circumstances. I’d like to pause and give a shoutout to my friend who chose to be a stay home mom so she can take care of her twins. Though every mom gets a shout out from me. Ok, dads too. I was about to judge her too then I thought to myself that being a good mom is not measured by the number of hours you sleep.

It reminds me of a common occurrence where we judge people and put them in a box because of the side of town they grew up on or even their ethnicity. As though if you grow up in the ghetto you are better than the one who grew up in suburbia, or vice versa. Instead we should learn what we can and share what we have with the other person. I believe we all do have something to offer the world. When you think about it this kind of thinking seems to apply in every area. In the workplace we expect bosses should be the same. We compare one speaker or trainer to the other and wish all of them fit our mould for the perfect speaker. We wish one partner, or ex partner was like another. That one child would, for crying out loud, be like their sibling. We set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration.

Let us instead embrace that difference that makes each one of us unique. The world needs it. We spend way too much time criticizing different when deep inside we wish we were bold enough to be different. I think if we let our kids be who they are, true to themselves and celebrated for being different then we set them on the right path. But it starts with you and I. Allow yourself to be you then do everyone else a favor and allow them to be themselves. Life is not a competition of who is better than who. If you must compete then compete against yourself. Always strive to better your best. I believe we’d get along much better in the world if we weren’t busy trying to change everyone else to fit a mould we’ve made up in our minds. Accepting that we are different and that it’s awesome that way is a first step to peace. So next time you catch yourself about to be judge and jury putting yourself on a pedestal  remember to look at the other person as simply “different”. Not better or worse, just different.

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