Just Shine!

December 20, 2017

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.

Don’t Compare

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.

Your Value

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:

  1. Will this help me reach my WHY?
  2. 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.

Intentional? Yes.

Dedicated? Yes.

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. 

Just Shine

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.


Be R.E.A.L.


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  • Reply Adam HIll December 20, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Hi Tara,

    This is a lovely, honest post. Very inspiring! I can totally relate to this. For years, I was self-conscious about my quiet, introverted personality and my speech impediment. Like Ed Sheeran famously said, we all have our quirks and we should embrace them. This is an important lesson for kids. I love what you say about making us stand out as individuals so that we can shine!

    Sadly, I can also relate to what you say about successes. I find the more success that comes my way, the fewer friends I seem to have. It might seem that success causes people to lose friends, but I like to think that success is a fantastic way to identify the real friends. This was most obvious when I relocated to Hong Kong. I love being a teacher here! People can see how much I prefer it. I have a nice life but also one that challenges me professionally. For the first time ever, this move secured me financially and I was able to enjoy regular travel. It’s amazing how many people stopped speaking to me almost as soon as I left. The same pattern continues with promotions, etc. Very sad.

    Lovely post! Thanks for sharing! Keep on shining like the star you are!


    • Reply Tara M Martin December 21, 2017 at 10:46 am

      Adam, I appreciate you sharing a piece of your heart in this comment. #Honored. Keep shining, friend. We all NEED your light.

  • Reply Dawn Wohling December 20, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Tara…..your post reminded me of one of my most favorite reflections from Marianne Williamson! It is one I share often with my students and then have them write about what it means to them.
    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    It is so difficult to let our light shine for fear of others reacting negatively…..but God gave us each unique gifts and abilities and he meant for us to use them! I thank him for you and your gift of writing and inspiring others with your most fabulous thoughts!! You truly are an inspiration!! 🙂

    • Reply Tara M Martin December 21, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Dawn, your comments melt my heart. Thank you so much. #Honored
      Keep shining, friend.

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