I felt the sting of standing out during P.E. class. We’d stand in a big clump as two team captains–always the tallest and most athletic guys–would begin picking the other tall and athletic guys to be on their team. Soon, the only guys left were the short, small guys. I was the shortest and thus was often standing all by myself, getting picked dead last. Not being wanted by either team had a way of making me feel very warm and bubbly inside. The people I interviewed shared similar struggles. They described the challenges of standing out to include: people staring at you, receiving unwanted attention, and feeling abnormal.
I think that initially, I was embarrassed to be short. I didn’t like all the nicknames that went along with it and I didn’t like all the teasing that seemed to go along with my height. However, as time passed I began to accept my height and then I began to really own it. I think my eyes became open to all of the hidden benefits that came with being short and I began to take pride in being short. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I went from feeling embarrassed about my difference to taking pride in it as it was probably a very gradual transformation. I think it came about as I began to focus on the positive things that being short brought into my life. I realized that people probably laughed at my jokes more, were less threatened by me, and that responding to the challenge of my difference was making me a better person. This transformation made such a huge difference for my life and I believe it can do the same for you.
Many of the people that we interviewed followed a similar path to mine and had really come to love being different. Some of them talked about it being “cool” to be unique, came to see the beauty and value in their difference, or embraced their difference as part of who they are. Others talked about how taking pride in their difference made them stand out as a leader.
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!
I will continue posting about the joys and challenges of being different on Mondays, but on Thursdays I will begin a seasonal blog about traveling with your family.