It is common to see certain people as wholly unique, that there is something special about them. We look at great innovators like Elon Musk, and think he is special because not many people think they have what it takes to revolutionize travel on land an in space. Even figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger we regard as special, after all, we think, it must take a special person to become the strongest man in the world, a movie star, and a state governor.
Most people imagine them as black swans, who stick out from the others and their individuality is worthy of praise. But very few swans are black, yet does this mean that ordinary swans (or ordinary people) are without value? Clearly not. Each are unique.
But this raises an interesting point. If each of us are unique and special, then that must mean that none of us are. If the norm is special, then being special is meaningless.
If this is the case, then where does our obsession about being special come from?
By Default, Everyone Thinks They’re Special
We are hard wired to feel special, or otherwise want to feel special. On top of this, our parents tend to see us as special from birth (after all we are their children and are special in that sense). This makes us either want to be special to justify their views, or grow up thinking we are naturally unique and special.
From childhood we see those who are seen as smarter, more attractive, or charming succeed where most of us don’t. Deep down we all want recognition, its simple human nature. So when we see others getting it, we either get jealous, or think them uniquely special.
When we get recognition, our confidence and self esteem grows, this can be extremely good for you, but can also have the affect of having an overly inflated sense of worth and pride, and thus think ourselves special to everyone else.
Feeling “Special” Is Dangerous
No matter how much we want ourselves to be the special ones, most of us are just ordinary. Some people are simply better than others at things.
This might seem as an insult for some, but think about it, it is impossible to be great at everything. Though some people might be better than you at one thing, you might be better than them at something else.
Sure, we can look at people like Schwarzenegger or Elon Musk as if they are special. But there are things that you can do that they would struggle with. The issue is, we only see the things that they are great at. I might, for example, cook better than Elon Musk, or write better than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This view of only seeing the positives and great attributes can apply to our view of ourselves too. Someone who is extremely prideful and sees themselves as incredibly special, will naturally have a limited view of themselves. They will be blind to their problems and flaws and negative sides.
This is a major problem in itself, without knowledge of your flaws, after all, it is impossible to improve yourself. The person who sees themselves as special would in fact be in a worse place than most people in the world, people who want to improve themselves.
There are roughly 7.442 billion people in the world right now, and that number is increasing rapidly. Therefore the possibility than any one of us is more gifted than anyone else is borderline statistically impossible. Things I’ve experienced have been experienced by many thousands before me, and many thousands will experience the same after me, it is inevitable.
So with this, perhaps the only way to be special is to feel good about ourselves. If nobody is truly special, then why need to focus on those seen as greater? If nobody is born special then there is nothing stopping you achieving as they have.
This idea may be disheartening at first, but I think there is something liberating about it. There is no longer any pressure to feel like you have to be special and great at everything.
Everyone is unique in the sense that there is nobody in world who is them. There never has been before, and never will be ever again. So instead of trying to be better than everyone else and unique, what’s left is to be great in your own way. You might love to draw and are great at it (I’m certainly not!) so why not just celebrate your drawing skills. Maybe you won’t end up being the next Michaelangelo, but why should that stop you?