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We live in a time and culture where the paradox between humanity's sameness and uniqueness is undergoing a lot of stress and is pushing people to the breaking point. Psychologically speaking, this is one of the hardest dualities about human nature to reconcile within ourselves.
The clients I speak to often tell me of the pain of feeling like an outsider, as though they have some kind of core difference or key distinction that sets them apart from their fellow human beings.
On the other hand, many people also tell me how they feel as though they are not unique, not special; they feel as though they are just another brick in the wall or another cog in the machine, so to speak.
People who work in large corporate settings can often feel their unique gifts and talents being left by the wayside as they perform menial tasks and dream of a better life. Those of us more on the fringes of mainstream society can feel like no matter what we do we have trouble connecting to others around us and fall into deeper isolation.
Looking back at our childhood is often a great place to start when we seek to understand the ways in which we have been taught to relate to ourselves. For instance, many clients have told me their parents have told them how special they are, how they can achieve anything and so on.
Some parents even go so far as to instill a sense of narcissism into their offsprings implying that they are somehow superior to their fellow human being and destined for greatness. Often this is a form of compensating for their own sense of insufficiency and low self-esteem.
Lately, I have also spoken to people who have told me that their family of origin conditioned them in the opposite way. They were told to blend in, keep a low profile, do their job well and not to make waves.
Parents who have taken their share of abuse from the world and have put their own dreams on hold may be more likely to instill a sense of conformity and the value of fitting in to their children.
Basically, we are taught to embrace our individuality or adapt to the expectations of the world in varying degrees depending on our environment and the influential people in our lives.
I myself value my individual attributes very highly and as such have found it very difficult to fit myself into any given niche or mold.
Many close friends of mine are good at being able to take on the qualities of the workplace in which they find themselves and succeed in that environment.
However, they often find there is something about themselves that they hold back and are not able to fully express and are therefore unhappy on some level.
Corporations are notorious for people reporting an unsatisfactorily high level of conformity or "sameness" and a lack of being able to harness their God-given talents and abilities. They may find that they can succeed financially by "playing the game" but always feel unfulfilled in some way.
On the other side, there are artists, entrepreneurs and creative people who have difficulty adapting to the realities of the modern world in order to channel their talents in a productive way. The classic "starving artist" is someone who may have a high level of uniqueness and talent but lacks the wherewithal to put themselves out there in a meaningful way.
The heart of this paradox is basically realizing that as human beings we are all completely the same, in essence but in expression we are infinitely diverse.
Right now in western society there is a lot of emphasis on individual differences through identity politics and various in and out groups that can be created, at times almost arbitrarily. We have shifted too far into the sense of ourselves as separate individuals and groups.
Reconciling this involves delving into the philosophical and spiritual principles that guide us towards essential unity and oneness. It is only when we realize this on a deep level that our individuality can truly be celebrated in the context of love and recognition of the abiding divinity at the core of our humanity.