I just got back from traveling to Colorado and noticed that when I am away from my home, I have a heightened awareness of how I am different from others. Sometimes that feeling is mild and other times it is strong. I would say that the best way to describe the feeling is as uncomfortable. While in downtown Denver in particular, I noticed that I was much older than almost everyone. The number of young people working in Denver has grown rapidly lately as entrepreneurs and start-ups and even larger tech companies make Denver their base of operations. In most cases I was twice the age of those around me and I felt—different and uncomfortable. I was also particularly aware of wearing dresses when most women, young and old, wore pants. There were a few other tourists my age and they wore pants. I noticed only a few young women in dresses.
Dresses are one of the things I have always loved to wear and still do to this day. I remember as a little girl that it wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only one wearing a dress. I loved the cute little dresses with rickrack around the collar that my mom had sewn for me. Even when we were running and tumbling around I would wear a dress. I didn’t care for the most part until I got a little older and desperately wanted to fit in. And that is the rub. Wanting desperately to fit in yet feeling different from others is a conflict that most of us encounter in life.
Feeling like an outsider may be more apparent while traveling, but it can happen right at home. You can feel different from others for physical or emotional or political or other reasons—it doesn’t really matter what the cause. But when you feel different, how do you behave? How to do you treat yourself? Do you try to fit in or do you try to stand out? Do you make yourself wrong or do you assume that others are wrong?
It is not uncommon when feeling different to believe you are the oddball and that you need to conform. But you know what? When you conform and push down your own different ways, you are shortchanging yourself. You’ve heard the phrase, courage of conviction. It does indeed take courage to stick to your truths and allow yourself to be different from others. Yet it is so very important that you are true to yourself and don’t judge yourself as inferior for those differences.
If your inner being is telling you something that makes you feel different from others, you might find yourself holding back from allowing that difference to be expressed. But with practice, listening to your intuition can become a normal part of your life. And when you strengthen your skill of listening to your own intuition, your self-esteem will get stronger in turn. Because when you act on what your intuition tells you, it means that you value your own judgments. Valuing yourself and being true to yourself, even when you might feel like you are standing apart from others, does take courage, but it is critical for your own self-worth. Accepting and loving your differences builds your confidence.
Allowing for differences also means that you not judge others for their convictions or differences. One is neither inferior nor superior, just different. As you grow more comfortable with your own differences you can build your practice of being comfortable with other’s differences. Listening is key (see Relaxed Listening For Deep Connection for more on this.)
We have such a strong tendency to group ourselves with others like us. And though there is certainly nothing wrong with that, it does mean that we are getting out of practice at being with differences. When you cluster with like-minded people you might feel more comfortable, but you lose out on learning and growing. And that holds true for keeping your differences inside. By not allowing your different ways to be revealed, you are not giving the world a chance to learn from you, to see you and all your unique wonders. They may feel uncomfortable with your differences, but as we all practice embracing our differences, the more we will grow and evolve and learn to live together.