Sometimes, being different can draw negative attention in the form of people staring or picking on you. However, in many cases, the attention can be very positive. For instance, my wife is always amazed at how many people seem to remember me. Oftentimes, I would not recall who the person was and would have to fake it as they talked to me. Following such an encounter my wife would often teasingly start singing Nat King Cole’s song Unforgettable. Although my outgoing nature surely facilitated this phenomenon, I know that being much shorter than everyone helped me stand out in people’s memories. I know that some people have connected with me precisely because of my difference.
I recognize that there is some degree of prejudice out there towards people with differences. However, I do believe that there are many instances in which being different can help. Having a noticeable difference can actually get you the job or the position that you are seeking. With so many qualified applicants, it may be your difference that locked you in your employer’s memory and helped you to stand out above the pack. I think there are instances when the decision makers have a soft spot in their hearts for people who are different and will choose you partly because of your difference. They may realize that the unique challenges you have encountered would help you bring a unique perspective to their team. This is consistent with what those we interviewed recalled. Even though they experienced difficulties, many people also experience positive outcomes of their difference. This post focuses on some positives that people have mentioned about standing out because of their difference. Some of the people we interviewed suggested that standing out gave them more positive attention, a chance to be a positive example, and more opportunities in general. They also experienced the chance to take advantage of positive stereotypes and there was more appeal to the opposite sex for some people. As you read, try to think of positive effects you’ve seen in your life that came from your difference as well.
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!