“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” - Margaret Mead
Everyone is different. We are told this as children -- how special and unique we are -- but adulthood soon brings to light that differences don’t grant us any assumed privilege. Because as Margaret Mead implies in her quote, uniqueness is oddly not unique.
What is key to remember, however, is that the commonality of difference does not diminish the relevance of differences. Here are three reasons why embracing your own and everyone else’s unique nature makes the world a better place:
Your Life: What is your unique ability or core gift to the world? Oftentimes, we forget to ask, instead spinning our wheels around an ideal of what we wish we were good at or, worse yet, trying to bring our flaws up to average. Focusing instead on our unique gifts can make all the difference in our personal journey and our contributions to others. As the human on record with the highest IQ says (Marilyn Vos Savant), “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”
Do you know, really know, your strengths? If not, this article by CBSNews, Finding Your Great Gift, offers different processes (Question Focused and Expert Driven) to help you gain clearness on what you best have to offer the world. If you’re more of a test and quiz person, this article at EmergentbyDesign.com offers eight different self analysis tools for discerning gifts.
Your Community: Once you know your strengths and then know your values, you can become an unstoppable force in your own life, but also in the life of those around you. What do you bring to your family and community that few others can? How do your gifts balance the gifts of those around you? How can use them for the best benefit of an organization in a way that fulfills their goals and your own goals? Whether it’s corporate work, charity work, or caretaking, knowing the answers to these questions can align your gifts with your community’s needs and help make the world a better place.
For a more in-depth look at doing the most good, check out this article in The Atlantic, The Greatest Good, where Derek Thompson considers the motivation and result of “effective altruism.”
Your World: Now take your uniqueness, your community full of unique people, and scale it up to the global stage. How do we live without assumptions and with mutuality and respect? It is not easy. As Westerners in particular, we have spent centuries with a mindset of ethical imperialism, which Harvard Business Review defines here simply as, “[believing] people [should] do everywhere exactly as they do at home.”
Understanding everyone’s uniqueness will ideally translate into filtering out our assumptions about what others want and need in the world where they have their own values, gifts and desires -- all defined by things we may not, and perhaps can not, fully understand.
While all problems cannot be solved by tolerance, the world can benefit from more people accepting that we live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-social world. Everyone is different. Personal difference means unique gifts and meaningful contributions in our personal lives, and scaled up by 9 billion, it means all our many differences generally offer great value and contribution on the world stage.