What does being unique mean – and why should it be celebrated?
You’re one in a million! It’s a beautiful compliment, but what does being unique mean, and why is it something to embrace? It can be easy to decide the best way to feel good, cause the least disruption and ‘fit in’ is to follow the crowd – wear similar clothes, style your hair the same way, listen to the same music and generally live the same lifestyle as your peers – but when we deny what’s unique about us, we miss out. Here’s why being unique matters.
What does the word unique mean?
Put simply, unique means one-of-a-kind. Every person on earth is one-of-a-kind, yet we often try to fit in. While connection and belonging is important, it can be easy to suppress our true feelings and unique traits by trying to follow the status quo. After a while of doing this, it becomes easier to dislike the things about ourselves that make us different. But when we appreciate ourselves and all of our unique qualities, research has shown that we feel more positive in myriad ways.
Being unique – and embracing it – makes us happier!
Richard M. Lerner, a professor of Human Development at Tufts University, and his colleagues have studied youth development, and come up with the five Cs of positive youth development. By promoting these five Cs, children and young people thrive. The five Cs are: competence (the ability to overcome challenges and manage tasks and stresses), confidence (believing in yourself), connection (having meaningful relationships), character (being a good person), and caring (having kindness and empathy for others). Recent research has found that when adolescents appreciate their bodies and are compassionate towards themselves, it has a positive impact on all of the five Cs.
Find the essence of you!
Make a list of what makes you unique. Maybe you’re a great cook, you always come up with fun activities when you and your siblings get bored, or perhaps you always help your friends understand their math homework. Everybody has a unique set of skills, talents and characteristics – it’s what makes life interesting and meaningful – so celebrate yours
Embrace what your body can do!
It’s easy to get caught up worrying about looks, but try turning your attention to what your body can do (see How to appreciate and accept your body). Maybe you love playing basketball, or you paint beautifully – it’s your body that allows you to do that. At the end of each day journal one thing you appreciate your body for, maybe it’s “I’m grateful that I was able to swim in the ocean today”, or “I loved listening to beautiful music” or “I got to hug my grandpa”.
Reflect on your heritage
Explore your heritage and feel inspired by it. Ask family members to tell you stories about your history, and research it to get a deeper understanding. It could make certain aspects of the way you look that you’ve disliked in the past feel like something that connects you to your heritage. Decide instead to treat yourself with kindness and acceptance. A study of teens and young adults found that those with higher self-compassion had greater well-being.
Focus on what matters
Focus your attention on what matters to you, and acknowledge improvements and successes – however small. Make the most of your talents and enjoy putting them to use, but also think beyond yourself – maybe volunteer for a project that has meaning for you. When we turn our focus outwards and use our energies to help others, it stops us getting too carried away with what we don’t like about ourselves.
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When it comes to your body, love the one you're with
Beauty is an all-ages show
Every body is beautiful
Be your beautiful self