Since we were young, we’ve been told a lie. The lie sounds like this: The way to be accepted and even succeed in life is not to be too weird, odd, different, or unusual. We’re taught not to stand out but to fit in.
Brené Brown is well known for saying, “Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. Belonging is being accepted for you. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”
Here’s the trap within the lie. By this definition, fitting in is closing the doors on your unique genius and, as such, what’s possible in your life. If you choose the “fitting in” path, you’re less likely to discover your true voice, inner compass, calling, or purpose.
There’s a valiant truth on the other side of the lie.
Before we can shape the life we want to live, we must listen to the whispers our life is quietly guiding us to become. One of the hardest and most important things in life is discovering and traveling through life as our true self.
In a society that, for the most part, celebrates the sameness of fitting in, I invite your oddities to shine. Your authentic you is your weird, your odd, your strange, your unique wiring. It’s the intersection of how you were uniquely made to serve the world and what the world needs most from you.
Your unusual is your genius.
As I’ve said and written more times than I can count, your brand is your character, and your character is your brand. This is true for your personal brand and the brand of your company.
Your unique character is made up of your deeply held beliefs, your unique motivations and values, and the masterful way you are wired to serve the world as only you can. That character, consistently expressed over time, leaves an indelible impression on the people around you.
Among our deepest calling is the character growth towards our authentic self — regardless of how it may or may not conform to someone else’s image of who we should be.
Of course, this is also true for brands as well as individuals. As some of the world’s most potent brands have proven, if you look to the market to dictate your brand and your position within it, you’re already lost your way.
Apple is odd. Patagonia is weird. Tesla is strange. Each of them — and many more equally abnormal — stand alone beautifully on their beliefs and position.
The irony is that when the world tries to confine us to its rules, we turn away from ourselves. We turn away from the world of our unique contributions. We turn away from the unique path that we are born to forge. We deny our individual genius. By discovering our voice and walking our path, we silently give permission to those around us to do the same.
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.” ― Maya Angelo