How unique are you?
It’s kind of a dumb question, and you probably reacted with at least a little incredulity. “Honestly? Didn’t your kindergarten teacher teach you that everyone’s unique?” Yeah, she did. And yes, I realize that no two people are exactly alike. I realize that your preferences, motivations, thoughts, and feelings are not replicated exactly anywhere. But even among unique individuals, you will find similar preferences, similar desires; I am of the opinion that some combinations of unique preferences and traits are less present in our culture than others, and unfortunately I think that those who find themselves truly different are often put at a loss when dealing with others. Allow me an analogy to help illustrate my point.
Take two normal, six-sided dice (one red and one white), and roll them. Roll them again, and again, and again, and each time you roll, record the numbers on each of the dice and the total. If you’re rolling fair dice, you will after a great many rolls have a distribution of totals from 2 – 12. How many different unique ways are there to get 7? Well, you could roll 1(R)/6(W) or 6(R)/1(W) , or you could roll 2/5 or 5/2, or you could roll 3/4 or 4/3. In all there are six different outcomes for rolling a 7. The probability of rolling a seven is therefore 6/36, or just over 16%. How many different ways are there to roll a 2? Or a 12? Only one each: 1/1 and 6/6; under 3%. Rolling a 2 is a much less probable process than rolling a 7 (this concept should make sense to those who have played Settlers of Catan.); even though each combination of dice is unique, certain unique combinations yield results that find themselves in broad company (7) and certain unique combinations yield results that cannot be duplicated (2).
After reading this, ask yourself: how often do you find yourself in situations where you feel like a 2 in a room full of 7s? To some extent, everyone will feel like this at some point; this is our uniqueness as humans. But when was the last time you felt maligned because you had a minority viewpoint? When was the last time you were made fun of for being a feminist, for having red hair, for using big words, for not liking LOST, for refusing to watch Justin Timberlake’s newest Youtube SNL video, for having strong ideals? When was the last time you were told to “chill out” after making a comment about something you felt very strongly about, only to have everyone else in the room scoff? When was the last time you excitedly shared something you were working on with a relative or close friend only to be told “I’m glad you understand that, because I don’t,” with the other then shifting the topic of conversation?
How frequently do you feel like the things at the basis of your personality, at the core of your beliefs, at the center of your being, are things that a majority of others find repulsive? How often do you feel not just unique, but different?
If the preceding questions describe your reality, I’m sorry. Know that even if you’re statistically improbable, you’re not alone. There is power in being able to reject something that is widely accepted simply because “that’s what people do.” If, however, you find yourself more often than not among those who agree with you except for that one guy or that one gal; if you find yourself becoming agitated with that person for his or her perceived arrogance in not conforming or in demanding to always be different; if you think that such a person is necessarily just acting out of a desire for attention or similar, then please listen to me when I say that some people are simply 2’s trying to understand their uniqueness in a world populated mostly by 6’s, 7’s, and 8’s. Some people are naturally unlike others, and we all do a disservice to our kindergarten teachers and to our fellow humans when we espouse “everyone is different” with one breath and fail to validate thoughts, feelings, and traits that are different from our own in the next.