Instead of embracing who we truly are, we try to hid who we are so that we fit in. It's time to stop hiding. It's time to celebrate being different. Read Why It's Okay to Be Different.

Growing up, I wanted to fit in. Not that unusual for a teenager I realize.

Being adopted only added to my feelings of isolation as a youngster.

I was in awe of families that looked alike or had similar characteristics or personality types. I didn’t have anyone in my life whom I could relate to on that level.

As a teenager, the only insight into my biological parents was via my imagination (and boy did I have an active one of those).

I remember my Grandma passing a comment when she thought I was asleep (and therefore not able to hear her).  Though I can’t quote her verbatim (it was a long time ago now), she asked my Mother something like, ‘She’s not like the rest of us, is she?’

At the time, I was upset by her comment. It took me years to come to terms with and accept the fact that she was right.

More importantly, I realized it wasn’t a bad thing.

Standing out from the crowd is good. Over the years, I have come to embrace my individuality and uniqueness.

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Here are some things I wished I’d learned earlier about why it’s okay to be different.

Cherish Your Uniqueness

I wish I had learned earlier that it was okay to be different. We don’t all need to fit into the same mold. Quite frankly, imagine how boring that would be if we did.

You have your own set of characteristics, skills, dreams, and goals that makes you different from anyone else.  Embrace them, don’t be embarrassed by who you are.

Don’t be ashamed of how you look. 

I have come to realize that some of the most beautiful physical features of people are the ones that make them stand out from the pack, the ones that make them different. The same ones they probably got teased for and hated as a teenager.

Embrace what makes you unique.

Embrace your uniqueness by discovering your talents, skills, and gifts. Uncover new activities that you enjoy doing and that bring joy to your life. A great way of doing this is with the people over at CreativeLive. They offer a huge range of online courses that you can take in the comfort of your own home at your own pace. There’s a range of classes on photography, arts and crafts, business, personal growth and development, and much more.

Have a look through the courses on offer to see if there is something that captures your unique skills and personality. (My favorite CreativeLive course is How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence so make sure you check that one out!)

Pretending to be someone else won’t work

I lived on the Gold Coast when I was 23.  At the time, the Coast was all about being thin, blonde, buxom, and tanned.  Admittedly I was thin and blonde but I was also flat-chested and pale-skinned. I tried so hard to get a tan, wear the right clothes, date the cool guys, and fit in.

More self-confidence at that age would have saved me a lot of time, energy, and sunburn (not to mention avoiding some downright awful relationships).

In short, I was trying to be someone I was not.

Look up to your friends but don’t try to be them

As a teenager, I was lucky to have a wonderful group of friends, some of who are still a big part of my life over 30 years later.

I had one friend in particular who I looked up to and admired. She was gorgeous, funny, outgoing, and smart. Men just adored her.

I understand now, I wanted to be like her. Without realizing it, I probably dressed like her, and acted like her instead of simply being myself.

I became a much happier person once I stopped trying to model someone else.

Need more clarity on what you truly want out of life? Danielle LaPorte has two great books The Desire Map and The Fire Starter Sessions. I love both of these books (they’re sitting pride of place in the bookcase next to me as I type this.)

Don’t give in to peer pressure

I was talking to my Mum about this recently. I could have easily fallen victim to peer pressure, the sort of pressure that can get you into a lot of trouble and steer your life in a whole different direction.

Thankfully I have quite a stubborn streak. 

I hate being told what to do, particularly by people I don’t know and trust. The more people tried to tell me I had to try things because they were ‘cool’ or called me names for not doing what everyone else was, the more I dug my heels in and rebelled.

Instead, I decided to make my own decisions.

It goes without saying, I still made some mistakes but things could have gotten a lot messier if I had given into peer pressure.

In the end, you have to do what makes you comfortable.

You are not your parents

Depending on what your relationship is with your parents, you usually want one of two things.

You want to emulate them or be completely different from them. It may even be somewhere in between. As we all know, family dynamics can be complicated!

Even though they stayed together for a long time, my parents had an unhappy marriage. I didn’t want to follow in their footsteps.

Just because you grew up a certain way, doesn’t mean that is your life direction. You can follow a different path from your parents if you so choose.

Don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed by family or family tradition. Have your own opinions and views.

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Have an open mind

Being different can sometimes mean you think a little more outside the box.

For me, it has simply meant that I have a more open-minded approach to things. I don’t judge as quickly. I try not to stereotype (which I might add is one of my pet hates). I try to see the light and dark in situations.

I try to put my feet in the other person’s shoes, as they say.

Some people see everything as black and white, right or wrong. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, just don’t think for a moment that is the only way of viewing the world.

Related postStop Stereotyping and Labelling

Don’t be afraid to challenge the norms

I got engaged when I was eighteen. I felt all grown up at the time, but looking back I have to admit I had no idea what the hell I was doing!

As much as I loved my boyfriend at the time, I think a large part of us taking that next step was because it was expected.

You got married, you had kids – that was the order of things.

Only a handful of girls in my class went on to senior at high school. University wasn’t even an option at the time. At 16, it was time to go out and get a job.

It took me a long time to understand that getting married young and having kids wasn’t what I wanted.

What I wanted was to travel and that is exactly what I did.

It’s okay to be different

Of course, teenagers aren’t the only ones trying to fit in. As we get older, we are trying to find our place in work environments, careers, families, and social groups.

Embrace your individuality. Let your unique light shine from within.

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