Each of us likes to feel special. Even though there are millions of us on the planet, each with unique DNA, unique personalities, and unique fingerprints – being different from one another is not the same as feeling special. We want the very thing that differentiates us to be positively acknowledged – to be appealing, admired, and special.
It seems like we should take being unique for granted. It's amazing to consider the number of permutations and combinations of shapes, sizes, interests, skills, talents, and expertise we have. In spite of understanding we’re distinctive in so many ways, we still light up when parents, grandparents, teachers, friends, lovers, and even strangers hold any aspect of our differences in high esteem.
In this impersonal world, we like to know we matter. We tell stories about receiving special treatment as if we’ve won medals of achievement: a traffic cop lets us go with a warning; an airline lets us board the plane when we’re late; a movie theater gives us a free pass; a salesperson offers a discount.
The issue isn’t whether it’s good or bad to like to be treated specially, rather it’s how we deal with the reality of when we’re not. Do we feel wounded, hurt, disappointed, or angry when we don’t receive compliments or special exceptions?
Do we know that we’re special without receiving special treatment? I’ve been asking myself:
“Do I need the admiration of others to reinforce my self-worth?”
There’s a primordial pain in feeling like our lives are meaningless. No one wants to be irrelevant. We’re shaped by the need to be special. We had tastes of it during our formative years. The experience lets us know we’re important; we’re worthy; we’re lovable. It feels so good — we want it all the time. And if we believe it must come from outside of us to be valid, we feel let down when we’re not receiving acknowledgment and compliments. It’s as though to be special we have to have external praise, but that’s not the best option.
“There are two ways of spreading light:
to be the candle
or the mirror that reflects it.”
– Edith Wharton
I take this to heart. Each of us is unique, and no one is irrelevant. At the same time as we’re pursuing our goals, we can be the candle shining light on our effort and our accomplishment. This doesn’t preclude being the mirror that reflects the achievements of others back to them.
Doing both reinforces both – valuing us and valuing others.
Sources: Edward Dreyfus, brainyquote.com.