Interviewing other people who were different was sometimes painful. It was painful because it often brought back memories of some of the same distressing experiences from my own past. On one particular afternoon, the tall woman we were interviewing spent much of the interview in tears, and this was very heart wrenching for me. It made me travel back in time to when being short was much more difficult for me than it is now. I thought long and hard about exactly what kind of an impact being short and fat had on me. Suddenly, I had an epiphany: how would I have turned out if I didn’t have to struggle with being short? As I thought through the events in my life, I felt a wave of gratitude for the trials I experienced. I wondered, "Without feeling short, would I have had the motivation and drive necessary to make something of myself? If I didn’t feel a sense of inferiority earlier in life, would I have ended up as just an average person?" It dawned on me that so much of my motivation stemmed from a desire to prove myself as a person of worth despite my differences. I’m not saying that I’m some rockstar who has phenomenal achievements, but I am proud of what I have accomplished and I have ambitious goals. Looking back, I’m not sure that I would have reached this stature without the extra motivation that came from lacking stature.
I love the quote from the beginning of the post by Frank Sinatra that the best revenge is massive success. When people label us, the natural inclination is to be angry; however, we can choose how we channel that anger. We can allow the anger inside us to make us bitter and seek revenge by inflicting harm on others, which ultimately harms ourselves, or we can rise above it. The beauty of the revenge described by Sinatra is that rather than seeking revenge by inflicting harm on others, we channel the anger into motivation to improve ourselves and become massively successful. This type of revenge isn’t really revenge at all, but smugness from proving wrong the misguided labels of others. This type of “revenge” not only doesn’t hurt anyone, but could drive you to massive self-improvement.
Another option is to feel sorry for yourself and think negatively about your value as a person. Unfortunately, many people choose this option. Many allow it to significantly affect their self-esteem and how they perceive themselves as a person. Again, deciding to be motivated by the label rather than letting it define and limit you will allow you to prove to yourself and to others your value and worth as a human being. Here are a few ways that you can turn your physical difference into a springboard of motivation to benefit your life.
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!
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy…Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” -- Martin Luther King Jr.