Why it is that sometimes we desire to be different from everybody else and sometimes that might feel a little bit uncomfortable? What you might not know is that this is a perfectly normal pattern that all human beings rotate throughout during their lives.
When we start out as babies we are very much coming into the world and it’s all about me; it’s all about that own particular individual they are. As babies, we are not really all that aware of other people and they don’t much care for them – in fact, the only time they’re really interested in them is when they need food and a nappy change! It’s more about what can you bring to me? I am one special unique human being and I need all the attention and that’s just what babies DO to get through that initial phase of their development.
As time goes on they start to enjoy the interaction from others and actually really need it in order for their development to continue, so they rethink from being all about themselves and being this unique little individual thing to then realizing that ‘actually I’m part of something else’ so they start to recognize family and maybe certain people and places that they know and they really enjoy engaging and interacting with them. They actually start to feel like they are part of that collective of other people.
Guess what happens next? As they approach their toddler age they start to become quite selfish again! They’re really self-focused because they’re going through another phase of development where they really need to focus on building up their skills of walking and talking and so on, so the world once again becomes all about them.
Later on, they go to school and then it becomes all about their social skills and making new friends, so at that point, they start to want to be part of a group again. And so it continues throughout our lives – we’re always pivoting between being unique and different to everybody else and then wanting to be part of the group and being accepted by everybody else.
It starts to get a little bit more distinctive as you move towards your teenage years. For those of you who are perhaps Year 6 and upwards you may have noticed that you’re transitioning either from the group to becoming unique and individual OR from unique and individual to wanting better connection with those people around you and perhaps wanting to be part of a group.
One of the ways in which young people start to define themselves as individuals might be by what they wear or the colour of their hair when they dye it or getting a tattoo or a piercing or something like that. Something that sets them apart from other people. If you’ve noticed that you’ve got friends who suddenly seem to be going a bit cuckoo because they’re doing some unusual things, or they’re just developing in a way that you haven’t expected, that’s probably part of their desire to be unique in individual.
Once again this is completely normal. Sometimes you might also experience the challenge of wanting to reconnect with other people or to build up your social circle a little bit better. You might have a desire to have more friends and find that, unfortunately, everyone else is in that different state of mind where they’re wanting to be unique and individual! You’ve got to wait a little bit for that to come full circle again and for everyone to be at the same level of development – whereby they’re all wanting the same thing that you are.
Sometimes the adults in your lives will find it really challenging when you start to go through one of those unique phases where you want to be individual and different once again. Part of the reason why that happens is because, they might see that you’re becoming a separate individual to the rest of your family. They want you to continue being part of the family because they love you and they like to feel connected to you, so when you start to break away and do different things, or to form social circles that are outside of the family it can really freak them out!
In my experience I find that it works very well, in those circumstances, to keep the channels of communication open. By that I mean that if you are feeling that you want to express yourself in a certain way by changing the way that you dress or getting your hair cut a different way, and the people around you seem to be disagreeable to that then explaining to them that this is part of
your self-expression might help them to understand where you’re coming from. When I was 16 I got my nose pierced and my family really freaked out about it! You’d have thought that I’d have got some swear word tattooed across my head the way the reacted! It was (in my opinion) completely irrational and out of proportion to the circumstances.
What I’m saying is when you reach those points where you want to be unique and you want to be different, and perhaps once you start defining your own personality and figuring out who you are, it is completely okay for you to do that. If you can communicate with the people around you who might get a little bit wobbly about then it might help them understand why is that you’re doing this and where it is that you’re really coming from. But ultimately if they can’t accept it then don’t feel like you need to confirm – the most important thing is that you are comfortable with who you are and that you like yourself, and everyone else is secondary to that.
You have to put your own opinions of yourself first because if you don’t like you it makes it very difficult for anyone else to like you. If you want to make a statement one day by going out wearing bright pink lipstick then that is absolutely fine because, providing you’ve got the confidence to follow it through, then what everybody else thinks about it is absolutely irrelevant!