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"We are a nation of many nationalities, many races, many religions — bound together by a single unity, the unity of freedom and equality. Whoever seeks to set one nationality against another, seeks to degrade all nationalities."
– Franklin D. Roosevelt  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 2 February 2018  

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Janice Tollini

  Perspectives — a column
  Being uniquely you
  By Janice Tollini

   Janice Tollini has worked in the health care industry as a clinical psychologist for 15 years. She is now a Talent Management Consultant, and is completing additional graduate training in industrial/organizational psychology. In 2017, she will become certified as an executive coach through the World Coaching Institute. Check out Janice’s website at
When I was younger, probably in third or fourth grade, everyone was wearing Dingo boots. (I know some of you are saying, “I remember those!”) I wanted a pair very badly. Perhaps not so much because I liked them, but because everyone –- and I do mean everyone –- had a pair. They were basically cheap, fake cowboy boots. I don’t know how much they cost, but I do know that I desperately needed a pair.
   My mother gently denied my request, which became more of a frantic plea; she explained that buying boots just because everyone else was wearing them was just silliness. That was followed by a life lesson about the value of being different from everyone else and that it was important to be uniquely me. A lesson sadly wasted on an 8-year old — or not.
   Many years later, I have come to realize that my mother was correct. There is value to being uniquely me.
   All children struggle with fitting in and finding their place. It is part of growing up, deciding which sports to play, which classes to take, which music to listen to, and the most critical decision of all: forming a group of friends. Over time, we all form cliques — membership in a defined social group, a group with whom we have many things in common, such as how we dress, how we style our hair, our activities. As adults, we have similar groups, be it professional associations or membership at the country club. As adults, we pay a membership fee. As children, the fee is not monetary but rather the price of not straying too far from that clique — the price of conformity.
   Somehow, my mother’s message had sunk in. In high school, I was part of many different groups; I rode horses, was in band and orchestra, and my boyfriend did nothing other than party. I wasn’t limited to any one group. (I briefly attempted the punk style, precursor to the modern goth, which was all about defiance and non-conformity, but ironically we were rebelling against conformity in the same way.)
   In 2018, I am reading a book on emergenetics — “New Science of Success: Emergenetics” by Geil Browning, which is essentially the notion that our thinking and behavioral styles are the combination of environmental experience and our genetic tendencies. A key message is to identify and use your unique strengths rather than try to adopt a different style.
   The point of this article is not about the specifics of thinking styles or really any style in particular. The message is that we are all different and that’s OK. We are different in how we think, how we perceive things and what we seek in others. We are different in how we dress, the foods we eat and the cars we drive. We each value and strive for different things. Our happiness comes in many different wrappers.
   Somewhere in time we have been given the message that there is just one right way to live our lives, and we should all try to fit that mold. We have been told that we should try to change ourselves to be more like everyone else.
   I would argue against that message. I would argue that there is tremendous value in our individual differences, and we should strive to embrace these differences. In doing this, we honor our true selves. We should appreciate rather than shun all our quirks and eccentricities. We ought to recognize them as strengths rather than weaknesses. To do that, we have to pay attention to what we value, acknowledge what is important to us and pursue what makes us happy. We owe it to ourselves to be uniquely ourselves and to know that is the best we can be.
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