Everyone wants to be normal.” A quote that really stuck in my mind after the Tea Uglow Speaker Series at the adidas HQ. Normal. Such a simple word with so much room for interpretation. But, what does it mean and why do we even want to be normal?
According to Maslow’s pyramid of needs, the feeling of belongingness, aka the sense of connection, is a central human need. Which is why probably everyone wants to be normal, to be like most people. But I’ve been wondering: Does belonging necessarily mean for us to be the same?
Recalling my childhood and my first years in high school, I still remember the feeling of being somewhat different because of my Asian descent. As a young girl, still in puberty and struggling with the same problems as other teenage girls, all I wanted was to feel like I belonged. I wished to be like everyone else – normal, as I thought. I can still remember constantly asking myself why I didn’t look like everyone else. Why was I different?
Today, I realize what a privilege it is to get to grow up within two cultures. It helps me to understand that there is no single definition of what normal is and that our sense of belonging might not derive from being the same. Rather, it stems from being accepted for our true selves and accepting others for who they are.
Every one of us is different, has a different family background, a different cultural background and most importantly a different personality. And that is good, because this is what makes life exciting. Creativity and innovation for example can only thrive on diversity.
So instead of pursuing to be normal, we should rather embrace the beauty of being unique.
In sports this mindset is already widely adopted. People make their individual training plans, do different sports and train with different weights. After all, everybody works in their own way, hence there is no plan that fits all. Not everyone likes to do sports. That’s ok. Not everyone likes to run. That’s ok. Not everyone can train with 100lbs. That’s ok.
With that in mind, here are three thoughts on how to unfold your inner unicorn and embrace the real you:
1. Love yourself
This may be the most important thing to truly embrace the beauty of uniqueness – accepting yourself for who you are rather than seeking acceptance from those around you. Having been raised bi-culturally – and thus with differing expectations – I can say from experience that this is an exhausting undertaking. To do justice to others should not be your ultimate goal in life. No matter what others think of you or what you do, if you don’t believe in yourself, it is worth nothing.
We should be able to tell ourselves that we love who we are, what we do, and what we have despite others’ opinions. Being content with oneself is the key to embracing your own uniqueness. Rather than focusing on others, put yourself in the spotlight of your happiness.
2. Respect other people
We do things the way we do, assuming it to be normal and sometimes we can even be defensive when someone suggests doing things differently. To be unique also means accepting the views of others (I would like to specifically exclude a racist and homophobic mindset from this statement). It doesn’t mean that you must like them, but you should respect them.
Now, let’s remember there is no singular definition for normal and we should most definitely not define it by our own doings. Don’t consider what you are doing as the standard and expect others to do the same.
Instead of imposing on them what we personally consider to be normal, we should try to gain a deeper understanding of how others see things and allow them to be unique as well. Meet people with empathy and try to comprehend where their views and opinions come from.
3. Don’t compare yourself
Whether it is school, university, work, appearance, I’ve repeatedly experienced that comparing ourselves with other people seems just as natural as breathing. Every aspect in life can be compared to others and we do it too often.
Social media channels like Instagram only amplify this phenomenon. Ultimately, this can leave us with the feeling of never being good enough or envying something we will never have or be. Why do we even put ourselves in situations where we allow this kind of bad energy into our life? Better embrace the fact that we want different things in life and have individual strengths, weaknesses and needs, because life is not a competition.
In the end, I think we should aim to be unique instead of normal. Just imagine how boring life would be if everyone would have the same background, and also the same opinions and views on life. Sure, there would probably be less or no arguments or wars, but on the other hand also no innovations, creations or reinventions. We are so used to this life that we don’t even actually realize that life is diverse in so many facets and that this is what makes it so beautifully unique.
TEA UGLOW ON IDENTITY AND CREATIVE DIVERSITY
Head of Google’s Creative Labs Tea Uglow shares her thoughts on inclusion in the workplace and the value of individuality.LEARN MORE