There’s nothing special about me. I’m not writing this because I think I’m unique and my words deserve to be heard because I’m somehow better equipped than you to do so. And that, paradoxically, is what makes me uniquely qualified. I’m just like you.
I’m unique because I’m recording this. Because I think my life matters enough to be recorded “for posterity.” But I’m no different than you. You could also record your story and then you’d be in the special club called “people that record things for posterity.” As a matter of fact, I’m recording this to tell you that you indeed are unique, just like me, and that your voice needs to be heard. I want to hear it. Your family and friends want to hear it. As long as it’s really you, and not your ego trying to impress us by pretending to be so different that you’re not one of us.
We want your message if you see the paradox clearly that everyone is special, and therefore nobody is. It’s like Dash said in the movie “The Incredibles,” but he was looking at it through the wrong end of the telescope! He wanted to compete– to beat everyone else and prove his superiority of speed using others as his measuring stick so he could come out on top. But that’s handing over your identity and your sense of worth to other people, rather than just owning it. It’s as if he couldn’t recognize that he was incredible unless he defeated or conquered other people.
You’re just like me, and I’m just like you, and we’re all positively special and we’re all completely ordinary. Truly unique and absolutely common at once. That’s the paradox we’re supposed to discover. We’re simultaneously common and unique, and therefore we’re simultaneously both and neither.
It’s been kinda slow to develop in me, but it’s happened over the last few months. I can’t recognize a trigger for it exactly, except that I had finally met all my personal goals. I started a successful business. I got completely out of debt. I published a book. I have experienced a brush with death and survived. And none of it really matters- I wasn’t happy with my life. I still needed more. I wanted to impress you.
I had a stroke in my mid-forties, and I have pretty much fully recovered. But even with that huge wake-up call I didn’t understand the message until tonight. I had the most amazing epiphany of my life this evening. I was meditating and just trying to sit still and be aware of my own body, my breath, and sit still. But in trying to sit up straight and still I made the most important discovery of my life about my own soul… the deepest parts of me that make me tick and color all of my perspectives…
I slouch so constantly that standing up straight felt like arching my back.
And tonight I realized that the reason I slouch because I always feel unnecessary or useless. I’m constantly tired because I don’t sleep because my mind is racing about ways I can do something to impress you. Truth be known, I’ve never been a huge fan of the guy in the mirror. I never actively hated myself, I just never liked myself either. I was always trying to get the next accomplishment so people would like me, or buy the next thing to distract me from my unhappiness or impress people because I didn’t think I had value for just being me.
But I do. And so do you.
Hold your head high. Stand up straight. You don’t need success or stuff to have value- you’re worth more than anything you’ll ever do or all the things you could ever own.
This is what it’s all about. Embracing this paradox:
You’re exactly the same as me– absolutely unique. All you really need to do to impress us is be yourself.