We live in a world where “exceptionalities” (by definition–characteristics that make us exceptional–unusual, not typical) are often viewed as flaws or something to be “fixed” or require remediation. However, I’ve found that yes, my exceptionalities set me apart from others, but YES, my exceptionalities set me apart from others–and that is a beautiful thing.
It’s what makes me Tara M. Martin.
It’s what causes me to think and perform differently, which is often viewed as a positive trait. However, I also have “flaws” that require special accommodations to perform everyday tasks. For example, my sensory issues are intense and require lots of coping skills to do what others view as a “normal” daily task. However, these aren’t flaws–they are parts of my R.E.A.L. character. For without them, I wouldn’t be able to
Relate to others in the way only I can.
Expose vulnerability through my lens.
Approach others with empathy while remaining approachable. And, it would be difficult to
Learn through life’s obstacles.
For you see, my exceptionalities allow me to see a unique landscape of life; it’s not the same as those around me. And, your God-given talents and quirks enable you to see life’s horizon from another angle.
I think we can learn a lot about our uniqueness through Rudolph’s story.
Recognize Your Differences
First, we must be aware that we are in fact unique beings. We each have individual talents and strengths, as well as life experiences, that set us apart from those around us. It’s ok. That’s the beauty of the human race.
Because we are different, we mustn’t compare our story with others. It’s an injustice to not only the one comparing but to the one you’re comparing yourself to.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Why do some choose to steal the joy of others? There’s enough yuckiness in this world without this one. As educators, we should work diligently to stop the comparison thief from taking joy from those for whom we care so much–our colleagues, our students, our families, our friends, and ourselves.
Another’s opinion doesn’t determine your value. Even those we love and respect so much. Their opinion shouldn’t define us. When I’m concerned about a particular “next step,” I run it through two questions:
- Will this help me reach my WHY?
- Will it have a positive impact on those I serve?
If the answer to those questions is YES–it doesn’t really matter if others around me think it’s a bizarre idea. I just run with it.
Be fearless and OWN your talents. You were given them to serve a purpose in this life, but you can’t let others decide what your WHY is; you have to discover it for yourself.
The Delusion of Onlookers
Once I discovered my purpose, I began intentionally focusing my “whats” to help me reach my WHY. It has made a huge difference in how I spend my time and my plan of action to crush my goals.
However, I made the mistake of thinking those around me would celebrate alongside me as I accomplished a milestone.
Not so much.
In fact, it was quite the opposite. It was more like the reaction I received in my younger years when I became the first generation college graduate or later completed graduate school with a 4.0. In fact, during those years, “success moments” became the wedge that drove me apart from those closest to me. It might seem strange, but overcoming obstacles caused me to receive ridicule, shame, and, statements like, “Everything comes easy for her; that’s all.”
I love the part of the Teach Like a Pirate keynote when Dave Burgess shares the six words! I could feel the intensity and frustration when he shared four of the words a colleague once told him… “It’s Easy For You!”
Seriously? NO. It’s not easy. Hard work and determination are never easy. It’s foolish for one to think such thoughts.
Freakishly goal-driven? Yes.
Compete against myself? Yes.
Is THAT easy? Heck to the NO!
However, when others express their opinions as such–even now, I try to hide my celebrations. I’m fearful they will feel as though I’m boasting. Or, maybe they will compare their story to mine and feel sad and insecure? Or, sometimes I worry that they didn’t read my last six blogs that explained the journey and just chalked a “success moment” up to being “easy.”
So, I’m careful when sharing life landmark moments, or I choose not to share at all.
I want to, but it seems best to just keep quiet about it. Sometimes, I sit back and wait for the right time, but I know that time will likely not present itself.
So, I turn to my best friend–writing. I typically journal my life’s journey. It’s a sure place to document challenges and success moments. I do love going back later to read it when I need a little boost of encouragement. But, wouldn’t it be amazing to share them with others, too?
Is It Just Me?
Do you hide your successes? Your exceptionalities?
Do you cover them up for fear of what others might think?
Why do we do that?
We were born to shine!
Why can’t we celebrate with others when they succeed? I seriously love seeing my friends and family OWN goals and achievements.
The success of others doesn’t take away from ours. Not even; they don’t compare! That’s the piece I wish every human could genuinely grasp.
Rudolph dealt with others making fun of him. He wasn’t accepted, and he didn’t look or perform like those around him. (However, even though the other reindeer looked similar, I would imagine their personalities and characteristics were rare, as well.)
Rudolph wasn’t noticed UNTIL he let his exceptionalities shine! When he chose to OWN his unparalleled uniqueness…his REALness, he “went down in history!”
I don’t know about you, but THAT makes my heart smile and gives me hope!
I was recently talking to a mentor of mine, and he said, “Tara, don’t be fearful of your potential. JUST shine! Own it. Shine!”
So, to anyone who might be fearful to let their exceptionalities show…
Recognize your God-given talents and quirks.
Understand you’re different. There is no one like you–so there is no competition.
Compete against yourself. Also, don’t allow others, who choose to “one-sidedly” compare themselves to you, get you down.
Don’t be afraid to allow others to see your light shining. You can’t hide it anyway.