I’m Not Special…And Neither Are You

Happy Monday everyone! I hope your weekend was relaxing and filled with a little fun. I’m writing this post on Friday because I will be spending my weekend at Universal Studios in Orlando 🙂 They have a buy one day get one day free offer for Florida residents, so my best friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a weekend away for our birthdays.

I know my birthday was almost three weeks ago, but I guess I needed an excuse to justify spending almost $200 on a ticket. Some of you probably remember when a Universal ticket was only $89.99 and a fast pass $29.99. Heck, I remember buying an annual pass for only $99.99 when I was in middle school. Those were the good old days!

Regardless, I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun. She wants to try this place called the Chocolate Emporium where they concoct extravagant milkshakes…the kind with an entire cupcake on top, chocolate syrup, mounds of whipped cream, and whatever else they can manage to douse it in. It sounds pretty cool, but I think I’m just going to stick to a regular cupcake or some ice cream haha.

So about the title of this post…

Throughout my college career, I’ve never felt like I belonged in any particular area. When I was pre-med, I never felt like I clicked with the other kids. When I was public health, I felt a little more at home, but something still felt out of place. Then, I switched to health science, and again I felt a little better until I decided a career in dietetics wasn’t where my heart lied. Now, I’m health science and psychology, and I really feel out of place. The mere combination of the two degrees confuses people. In psychology, most people either want to be therapists, researchers, or have no idea why they’re even in college. In a way, I’d say I align most with the last group.

But in the end, I’ve always looked at myself as a special case. I’ve always thought I was called to a unique path in life, so I created a lofty expectation for myself for that reason. I’ve felt like I had to fulfill so much to prove/justify whatever I was doing. That was until recently…

Recently, I came across a section of my book that addressed the topic of feeling special. I don’t know if any of you remember my previous posts talking about the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, but as you can infer from the title the author is pretty blunt. He tells it exactly how it is, and he sure as heck didn’t stray from this when he spoke about feeling special.

Just as a side note, I want to summarize what he said and relate it to our lives. The author, Mark Manson, brings a unique perspective to this topic that I think is worth considering…

To start the chapter, Mark shared an experience he had throughout his early years of adulthood where he walked around feeling entitled. He thought he was special in the same way I did…he felt called to a unique purpose in life that he was always chasing, yet was never able to achieve.

What’s interesting about this viewpoint is that life quickly becomes a “you versus the world” scenario, where we begin to think that we are always right and the world is always wrong. If a venture doesn’t work out, it’s not because we failed in any way, but because the world doesn’t understand what we are trying to achieve. The world wasn’t ready for our idea.

And what happens is we never go anywhere. We end up in a perpetual cycle of talking one step forward and two steps back because when we adopt this mindset, we alienate ourselves from the world.

This might sound like a pretty unique situation that few of us might ever experience, but it stems from one core area: trusting our hearts and minds, or simply trusting our gut. Surely we have all been in a position where we either do what is factual or what our gut is telling us to do. I know I have.

What’s interesting about these gut feelings is that they are created from years and years of experience, which is why we think they are so reliable. But when we think about it, these experiences are subjective. They only have one direct source and viewpoint: ourselves.

The thing is that we cannot go through our entire lives believing that only we are right and the world is wrong. I think most of us already know this, but we often fall victim to it. I can recall countless times in the past week that I went off a gut feeling only to be wrong in the end. And what’s interesting is I almost always feel the same pressure in those moments…the pressure of me versus the world…the pressure of being special.

I also think we can all relate to this in some way. How many of us have been on a diet only to fall off track because we are a special case? How can we be expected to eat right when we work all day and have other obligations? Surely the millions of other people that are successful in dieting are different from us. We are special. We are in a unique situation. That’s why we failed on the diet.

See how easy it is to fall into an “us versus the world” mindset and to fall victim to that faulty intuition?

The thing is that when we never achieve that weight or other goal, it hurts us. It never feels good to fail. But can we honestly blame anyone other than ourselves? I mean we’ve convinced ourselves we are special, so really it is only our fault.

And to tell you the truth, the only way to fix this is to stop thinking of ourselves as special cases.

When I stopped thinking of myself as special…every forward movement wasn’t met with an aggressive push backward. A weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt liberated. I felt like I finally had the ability to be normal, and when I accepted that, life became a lot easier.

Buddhism has a central idea that mirrors this philosophy. To quote the book, “Buddhism argues that your idea of who ‘you’ are is an arbitrary mental construction and that you should let go of the idea that ‘you’ exist at all; that the arbitrary metrics by which you define yourself actually trap you, and thus you’re better off letting go of everything…when we let go of the stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves, we free ourselves up to actually act (and fail) and grow.”

In the end, the book argues that the smaller the box we try to place ourselves in, the harder it becomes to achieve our goals and the more life will threaten us. So we should define ourselves as broadly as possible, a student, parent, teacher, etc., to free our minds up to possibilities and new successes.

Sounds kind of wonky right? But I think it actually works. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve felt so liberated to make new decisions and try new things since I experimented with this. The truth is that I’m not the only college student trying to blaze a new trail or find their passion. And when I realize that I’m not special, I feel like the world is mine for the taking. I feel like there’s so much more out there for me to experience, and every time I fail it doesn’t feel like a setback. It feels like a learning experience. Like Mark says, I grow.

In the end, this is a little counter-intuitive, but I think there’s some truth to it. I’d take it with a grain of salt, however. As we all know, life is not black and white. I’d like to hear your opinions though…what do you think? Have you experienced anything similar? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know! I think we can all learn from each other.

As always, thank you for reading! My previous post has only been live for 11 hours, and the feedback I’ve gotten was out of this world. Thank you so much 🙂

As always, don’t forget to like, share, and comment. I’ll talk to you on Friday!

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein

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