Why We Should Celebrate Our Unique Qualities

On uniting in uniqueness, not uniformity

We celebrate birthdays, weddings, pregnancies, and retirements. We celebrate promotions and bat mitzvahs and business launches. There is a party or a shower or a happy hour for every occasion, but there is something we don’t celebrate — something that is arguably more important to acknowledge than all of the above: our differences.

When I think about a world without differences, I see dystopia. I picture women in crimson dresses and white-winged hats walking in a militaristic line; a pallid sameness; a monotony. This is not a world I am interested in, and my guess is you’re not interested in it, either.

Why, then, do we yearn for connection over similarities when the real value is in connecting with those from whom we can learn something? Why do we celebrate just about everything but that which makes us different? The real interest and intrigue show up when we identify and honor the unique qualities each of us possesses.

I wonder if one reason we are quick to judge those who are different from us is a lack of confidence, as if by celebrating someone’s curiosity, boldness, or candor, we are admitting we don’t possess qualities of the same caliber. In seeking out those like us, we’re searching for validation in our reflections; we’re looking for those who also prefer reading books to analyzing data or for those who are also energized by socialization and not quiet reflection. In that search, we miss out on the richness that is found in someone who is different from us. Our individuality makes our lives all the more interesting, and yet it doesn’t always feel like it’s a badge to wear proudly. We reward sameness by offering tips and tricks for people to look or think or do or be just like us. One needs to do no more than pick up a magazine to see this.

How utterly boring.

I am drawn to travel because I love to experience the new and the different, like how Turks eat hot soup and drink hot tea in the middle of summer; how Italians eat cookies for breakfast; how the Vietnamese drink egg coffee. This is why my husband and I travel with our young children. It’s important to us that they not only recognize but also appreciate the different ways people do things around the world, seeing firsthand that our way is not the best way, nor is it the only way — it’s just a way. (Side note: See my article about traveling with children here.)

Differences are beautiful, even — or perhaps especially — when those differences are found in your own home. My husband is what I would call stoic. Whereas I am boisterous when something excites me, his demeanor remains constant when excited or disappointed, happy or sad. This used to frustrate me. I used to want my passion to be met with passion, my excitement to be met with excitement, but to lean on a Latin proverb, still waters run deep. My husband’s unwavering exterior, once cracked, gives way to flowing emotion and passion — a well that runs deeper than most. To judge his quiet exterior is to rob him of the humanity he possesses inside; to neglect celebrating his stillness is to disregard his deepness. I could have missed out on this sturdy foundation had I not learned to celebrate his qualities which are so different from my own. The coexistence of our different qualities brings a much-needed equilibrium to our lives.

The Chinese principals of yin and yang place similar importance on the coexistence of differences. Consider the concept’s popular black and white symbol, which unites the two opposite colors into one harmonic whole. The earliest Chinese medical text, written around 2,000 years ago, says that to be healthy is to find balance between the yin and yang forces within your body — just as the symbol does.

We should seek a similar balance in our lives, not just our bodies. And the best way I know to do that is to unite in uniqueness and not in uniformity.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Dichotomies are a sign of health, a sign of intelligence, not to mention they make things more interesting, so why aren’t we intentionally manifesting them by way of celebrating that which makes us all different?

This is about reveling in our own unique qualities, too. When we identify differences between ourselves and others, it is time to celebrate. Be proud. Feel empowered. We bring something equally as valuable to the relationship as they do. We are the yin that brings balance and cohesion to someone else’s yang — maybe even a whole community or family or operation’s yang — whether we realize it or not.

How utterly beautiful.

Without all of our countless differences — our quirks and qualities and idiosyncrasies — our world would be just an ashen raincloud, not the lovely kaleidoscope that it is. It’s time we honor those unique qualities in celebration.

This post originally appeared on Wit & Delight. For more articles like this, subscribe to my weekly — no more, sometimes less — email.

author | reader | mother | kolinacicero.com/book

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