The Strive to Thrive blog has focused on strategies for losing and maintaining weight. I hope you benefited from that content! I am going to make a huge shift in the content for this blog and will now focus on describing how those who are physically different can not only effectively cope with the challenges that come with looking different, but thrive!
People are created in all shapes and sizes. Everyone has something about them that makes them distinct and sets them apart from everyone else. Let me start off by telling you a little bit about how I was different as a teenager and the challenges I faced because of my differences: I was, and still am, a total of five feet and three inches - not an acceptable height for a guy by American standards. I was fat too. From the time I was seven or eight years old, I developed a good hearty gut that I carried with me until I was 30 years old (I only just recently found a way to lose it). I was not obese, but the rolls of fat hung down and were definitely noticeable. To make matters worse, my incisors (the two teeth right next to the front teeth) never grew in, which threw off the whole rest of my mouth in a major way. My teeth were so messed up that I had to wear braces for 5 years! If all that wasn’t enough, I was blessed with a back disorder called Kyphosis, otherwise known as a hunchback. To correct this problem, I had to wear a back brace made of hard plastic that covered my whole upper body from my hips to my chin.
Your Difference Can Make All the Difference
I believe that we were created the way that we are for important reasons. We probably will never fully understand those reasons during this lifetime, but I feel that you can learn important things from your differences. In fact, being different can make all the difference in your life. It did for me.
The challenges that I faced from being so physically different from others instilled a strong compassion in me for others who didn’t fit in. I gained a keen desire to understand others and to do anything I could to help alleviate the suffering of people in situations similar to mine. I found that simply learning someone’s name and saying hello to them in the hall was one way I could help them feel like someone cared about them. I would talk to people and befriend them regardless of their social profile. I quickly knew the names and situations of many people and became very well liked everywhere I went. By implementing the strategies I will describe in this blog, the short fat guy with braces on my teeth and a protruding brace on my back, was elected Student Body Vice President by a landslide vote.
I Know What It Is Like
As I have just described, my physical appearance is very different from others around me. I know very well what it’s like to be different. I have been through the pain and teasing. I have experienced the prejudice and rejection from being different. At least to some degree, I understand where you are coming from, and I would like to help you. I want to help because I have been in your shoes and have experienced many of the same things that you have. I decided to write this blog because I learned and employed several key strategies from my personal experiences and relationships to my life that have made all the difference, and I want to share these with you. I was able to not only survive, but to thrive despite being different. In fact, I feel like in many ways my differences set me apart from others and made me special and unique. Essentially, I feel like one of the primary purposes of my life is to share my message of how to effectively cope with being different. I believe that it was, in part, for this very purpose that God created me this way, so I could help people in situations similar to mine.
As a Scholar, I Know the Research
I earned a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies and completed a postdoc in Psychology. I am quite familiar with the theories and literature in these areas that are relevant to being different. I frequently attend academic conferences in which some of the top scholars present their work on interventions that have helped people effectively cope with their physical differences. Furthermore, I have published dozens of scientific studies in top academic journals in the field. As a result, I know what good research looks like and how to determine what are the highest quality of scientific research. Also, in my personal research I have been interviewing individuals who are physically different and have asked them what strategies they use to cope with their differences. Thus, rather than just providing my short male perspective, I am including experiences from others who have successfully coped with their physical differences, including people who differ in terms of race, culture, height, weight (overly thin or obese), or other physical abnormalities.
The rest of this post has now been published in my book Standing up for Standing Out: Making the most of Being Different in Kindle or hard copy.The book includes experiences from 74 people I interviewed who share their struggles and coping strategies on the topics of relationships, belonging, standing out, self-acceptance, working against labels, gaining understanding and compassion, and personal growth. Check it out!