Do you think you are not different from the rest? Well, here’s the truth: you are. You are not only different, but more importantly, you are special.
Depending on your culture, you may have learnt to cultivate your difference or, on the contrary, to disappear in the mass.
Coming from a French culture of cultivating difference but having been living in Japan for almost 4 years, where acting like the mass is positively seen, I have sometimes been struggling with keeping my uniqueness.
I believe I have adapted to the Japanese culture of trying to fit it. Yet, I am well aware of the collectivist culture here and know (too well) that I could never entirely fit in due to, among others, how I look.
After months of trying to improve myself, I find myself in the middle of this dilemma that is: Should I listen to my heart or should I listen to others?
I have been writing consistently for months. Yet, I see that the topics I’ve covered not only barely touch upon my experiences in the past but also overlook how different my experience has been from some other people.
I wrote two days ago about how poverty could (wrongly) be seen as a blessing in disguise. This made me realize that I was analyzing other people’s experiences and validating their results.
This being said, I haven’t had what one could call a “normal life” either. I haven’t had such hardships like some others but I have lived in a number of countries while speaking their languages. I’ve learnt to go through racism despite being a white man, which is not really experienced in the West. I have witnessed kindness in its purest form.
All this has allowed me to have a rather warped view of every single thing around me. The many personalities I’ve created for myself throughout the years fight each other on a daily basis to choose what fits the overall combination of all of them.
So, why isn’t this showing more in my writing? I obviously am well aware of this problem as well as of the fact that despite not realizing where exactly, my writing has certainly been impacted in some way. I believe that, apart from my Monday articles about Writing and my Wednesday articles (on my blog only) about Japanese 4-character expressions, pretty much anybody could have been writing any of my articles.
So why not being “different”?
Well, in everyday life, being different is often looked down upon. In Japan, the most common types of “different people” are the hikikomori (people spending their entire life separated from the society, living mostly through online communities) and the otaku (“addicts” of games, manga, anime or such, which are sometimes hikikomori as well).
Many perceive those to have a “sad” life. Why did they decide to never come out? Why is this 70-year old man still reading manga? Why does this person spend hundreds of hours in from of a game every week?
Obviously, there has to be some of them who turned to those options due to fear but many also thrive in their difference. They are aware of their differences but learn to use those to their advantages, to ignore the eyes on them and appreciate their life as is. I saw almost 2 years ago a show about hikikomori on TV, demonstrating that some have a very structured life, with friends, no problem of revenue, and live happily in their circle.
Yet, as mentioned previously, those are looked down upon. Why is that? I believe it is because what they do works for them. Some are definitely looked up to from people in their community.
We often look up to people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Gary Vee and the such. But, no matter how you look at it, they are different from the rest of us. They ignored opinions about them and strived in their differences.
For this simple reason, I believe that despite the difficulties we encounter, we need to learn to be comfortable with our differences. Only this way can we appreciate what we do. Only this way can we live a life full of purpose and happiness.