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We’ve all heard various people in our lives throw around the term “unique.”
Being “unique” is often treated as though it is a gift. Those who aspire to be different, but still fear society’s response, are usually the ones who either pick on us or respect us the most.
As a teenager, I got picked on a lot because I would try and be fashionable in order to fit in. Oh man, was I bad at style, until I realized that I wasn’t meant for that life. As soon as I entered the “alternative” parameters, I felt much happier on the inside. However, I became a target for harassment.
This is where the downside of being “unique” comes in. I was picked on so much that I’d go home crying after school—until the day my mom walked into my room, sat me down, and explained to me, “If you’re going to be yourself and you’re going to be different, then you must understand that not everyone will appreciate it.” Years later, I still tell myself that from time to time.
Being unique means that we are turning our back on the standards of society and following our own path. Usually, when we discover our own path, we also discover that it’ll be a lonely one. My elders used to tell me that I’d grow out of this phase, and the truth is that a lot of people who were “unique” as children would also tell me that they grew out of it.
Believe me when I say that “growing out of it” was strictly by choice because even though being “unique” is glorified, it’s a difficult life to maintain. The pressures of society can catch up to us pretty quickly. Most of us are under obligation to have our full lives planned out by the time we’re 18.
People get it engrained in their heads that being alternative as an adult only makes you a loser. Only under keen observation have I noticed that a lot of adults who used to be alternative are pretty bitter. A lot of the same people who persistently tell us to “grow up” are the same ones who abandoned who they were to try and fit in. People end up in 9 to 5 jobs and they’re miserable; they end up marrying whoever is “best suited” to reflect the image they want to portray.
Needless to say, if we’re pushing 40 and even freakier than we used to be (because we have money for all of our weird sh*t now), we will bear the brunt of getting called “immature,” be shamed for not doing “what we’re supposed to be doing,” and basically be judged.
Even though it truly does feel wonderful to live our life—our way—we also realize that, at this point, we’re pretty accustomed to being alone. We’ve spent our whole life being misunderstood, and because we’re “unique,” we’ve had to still adapt to the world around us. We grow used to being the only person like ourselves—and it’s flattering as a freaky teen, but not so much when we’ve spent years trying to connect to people who will never connect to us.
At some point, I’d also noticed that many of the alternative guys I was into preferred to date more mainstream girls. A large part of subcultures is music and film. I’d be into a guy and we’d hit it off—we’d talk about art, music, films, and books. I would get so excited to finally meet someone who’s similar to myself—only to watch the same guy, once again, pick more mainstream women.
Confusion sets in amidst all of these experiences because so many people will praise our uniqueness—as long as they don’t have to date us. Guys have been telling me for years that they “wish they could find a chick as cool as me.” To this very day, it makes no sense why they’d say that to me, but only date chicks who don’t dye their hair or have tattoos and their own style. Being “unique” also means accepting that you’ll be fetishized—and rarely respected.
When a lot of these men flock to us, it’s because they want to know what it’s like to “hook up with a freaky chick.” I’ve made some awful mistakes figuring that out. Eventually, we’ll ask ourselves why these guys tend to approach us at night—it’s often because when the sun comes up, they want a “nice” girl to date and marry. If we don’t feel like we fit in with those who we thought we would, and if we don’t fit in with more “mainstream” people, where do we go?
Self-awareness has its price—so does being unique. Even though I’ve always been in a circle stuck around square pegs, I always know that, at the end of the day, I’d be miserable if I just “went with the flow.”
Those people who made fun of me taught me to never treat others the way I’ve been treated. Those guys who just threw me away like a science experiment gone wrong might spend their lives unhappy because they’re obviously attracted to more than the “norm.”
Being “unique” doesn’t have to condemn us to solitude, and we don’t have to be miserable in the meantime.
Being “unique” also means that we can do almost anything we want, without the guilt of trying to be someone else, or following the status quo. Mainstream standards don’t apply to us because we stay true to ourselves—and that’s a quality that many don’t have.
In a way, we’ll always suffer for being different because of humanity’s penchant for judging that from which they don’t understand.
Things within society need to be tested in order to progress; we’re just ahead of the curve.