There’s Everything Right About Being Unique
THERE’S EVERYTHING RIGHT ABOUT BEING UNIQUE
This is my positive spin on, “There’s nothing wrong with being different!” For over a year now, I have wanted to bring up this topic: Why are we judged and criticized for challenging the status quo?
So, you ask, why do people judge or compare?
I believe it is our ego that drives us to make judgments and comparisons. When we compare ourselves to others and make judgments about them, somehow it makes us feel better inside because we believe they don’t measure up to us. Now, let’s say we’re measuring ourselves up against someone who we believe to be better than us; that’s when we either find a reason to bash them or we end up feeling badly about ourselves. At this point, we make a decision to either improve ourselves so that we can measure up or allow ourselves to be paralyzed by it and fall into a depressive state.
Think about a time you compared yourself to a colleague at work or school. The observations you made, the judgments, or criticisms you had about him or her, were they fair assessments? Or, did you find yourself simply being catty about the things you didn’t like about them, making you the victor in the comparison? “I can’t believe she wore that outfit to give that speech! I was laughing inside so much that I wasn’t even paying attention to what she was saying.” I know this seems trivial, but far too often we allow ourselves to make judgments like these that can actually hinder our personal growth and create barriers for us in further developing. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make observations. However, if we are so focused on judging and criticizing that we lose sight of what is important, the message being received, then we end up missing out on the opportunity to gain insight and wisdom from others.
“Little Miss Perfect, Berni, you can’t tell me you haven’t made an observation like that before?” asked one of my peers several months back. I honestly have in the past, and that was during the time I never felt that anything I said, did, or achieved was ever good enough. It was during that time that I kept doing more, trying harder, spending wastefully on material items to bring me fulfillment, that I was more judgmental and critical despite my belief that I was very open-minded and non-judgmental. Within the last couple of years, I’ve dedicated my life and career to understanding self-love, applying positive psychology, and being an impactful leader that I had learned to use discernment instead of judgment. I was only judging others because I was so critical of myself.
What is the difference between discernment and judgment and what is the big deal?
Well, let’s take that example about the colleague at work or school. You are not immune to seeing others wear ugly clothes. So you noticed that she was wearing an outfit that did not compliment her well; big deal. You simply acknowledged it and then began listening attentively to her speech. If the content of her speech simply did not resonate with you, then you have used discernment to gauge her ability to grasp and keep your attention. If you found yourself laughing so hard inside that you couldn’t even focus on what she was saying, then you have used judgment. There is a big difference.
You are probably saying to yourself right now that this is a lot of work. It really is a simple thing to be able to make discernments instead of judgments, but because we get so carried away with stroking our ego, we fall into this pattern of judging and criticizing because it brings us temporary gratification to believe we are better than others. That is our way of validating our self-worth, or so we think. I probably should have prefaced this by saying that I am not a psychotherapist or psychiatrist or a mental health specialist of any sort. I am not perfect. I never have been perfect. I will not ever be perfect. I am simply telling you that having come from a place of judgment and criticism, both doing it and having it done to me, I was a very unhappy camper for a long time.
Depression ran in my family and I used to be easily affected by stress. I had a roller coaster of emotions for so long. Despite what would be perceived as a fabulous life I had was actually becoming more unfulfilling the more I had advanced in my life and career and sought external validation to feel good about myself than finding that self-assurance from within. It was around the time that I started acting like a true leader that I started to notice this magical change in me.
“I don’t manage people, how can I be a leader?”
That is a moot point, my friend. I believe strongly that not all managers are leaders and not all leaders have been managers. I had a manager in a past job who I thought was a great leader upon hiring me because of his hands off approach in managing me and my peers. Along the way, as we checked in to follow up on my progress, he had consistently stated that he hired me because he believed in me and trusted my work and work ethic. He instilled in me the trust and confidence to keep building my business as I had planned and supported me morally the whole way.
As a little more time passed, another wave of layoffs was underway and, this time, my head was on the chopping plate. My manager was a different person in the conference room, basically telling me I wasn’t a right fit for the position in the short or long term, which caught me by surprise. From the beginning, he told me that it was my behavior, working style, and professionalism that made me an ideal employee despite the old-school environment we were in. I thought, at the least, he would defend me and my work since he had been supporting it for so long. He simply left me there to fry when it came down to defending the bottom line. My ego was on the line, yes, because I was insulted that I was being let go when I had believed and they even told me I was a unique employee. However, I used that opportunity as a stepping stone to regain clarity about the things I was really good at and what I could offer to the world: leading and impacting change by being authentic.
I didn’t need my manager to tell me I was a good enough employee to keep my salaried job. I already knew I had a lot of talent; otherwise, they wouldn’t have hired me to begin with. In fact, his boss told me before I exited that I was too visionary for my job. But this leads me to my observation about being a career employee. Sometimes, and unfortunately so, when you stand out as an employee it can be to your detriment in your job if it’s not supported. A perfect example of this is the story from Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” about Clarence Saunders who became rich selling his store system idea to Piggly Wiggly after being fired by his boss for being too visionary when he shared the idea with him initially.
“It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it.” ~ Hans Selye
I had a separate experience at the same job and with the same manager. The sales force had taken a lunch training to assess our stress levels and to gauge how well we managed stress. I ranked low for having stress that could potentially cause health issues. I was very proud of that. My manager asked me how I ranked. We had a good working relationship at the time so I told him the number, which we both knew was low, and I smiled proudly. He responded that I wasn’t stressed enough and that in that job if I’m not stressed then I’ll never be successful at it. I was immediately taken aback. The voice inside of me was screaming, “Wow, you’re a jerk!” It was like that episode from “The Office” where Michael plays a prank on Pam telling her that she was being fired for stealing Post-It notes and then tells her she’s been “X’d” and “Punk’d” as she’s crying her eyes out.
No, this isn’t a rant about how much I dislike my ex-manager. On the contrary, this last year has made me aware of so much that I already had understood before, but became even more conscious of over time, as I started to observe others’ situations that resembled mine. Sometimes, being different or unique can make others feel uncomfortable about who they are. I know that that’s not your problem. It isn’t. However, acknowledge that it is possible. When you stand out because you’re likable, strong, confident, and competent, those who choose to gravitate towards you to learn from you or model after you are people who embrace self-love and are healthily growing and developing as individuals. Those who find reason to bring you down, because they feel less good about themselves around you, can create toxic situations in your life, and need to work on themselves. You don’t need that and you don’t have to put up with it.
It just didn’t make sense to me at the time why, because I was the only employee who ranked low for stress, I was being viewed in a negative light. My peers had the tendency to wear their hearts on their sleeves, which is their prerogative. However, since I wasn’t the type of employee who ran around the office angry, frantic, hyper, or loudly expressing my emotions, I was viewed as someone who would not be successful in my job? If that is the case, the fact that maintaining my composure and having good stress management makes me an unsuccessful employee, then thank you for letting me go.
I succeeded at being a leader and being impactful even though that wasn’t in my job description. During my first few months and even after I left the job, a handful of peers came up to me to thank me for inspiring them with the quotes and words of wisdom I left on my whiteboard in my cubicle every day. I even was told that my very friendly and happy demeanor was refreshing in an office filled with pushy, negative sales employees and managers. I didn’t manage a single person in that office at that job. However, by being authentic, consistently respectful and professional, I was able to positively impact and inspire others. That was the greatest lesson I learned in that experience where I was let go for not being a right fit and too visionary. I came out an even stronger leader as a result. No job, boss, or company can define who you are as a person and whether you are good enough to make an impact in this world.
“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.” ~ Thomas Babington Macaulay
*Berni Xiong is currently the first Hmong-American Life Spark who inspires and supports individuals in life and career transition through personal/professional coaching, inspirational speaking, writing, energy healing through Reiki, and various entrepreneurial endeavors. She currently sits on the board of directors and advisors for over six organizations in the Milwaukee region.
I coach. I speak. I write.