When I was little, I was taught that I was special. This was partially because of my parents, but also partially because of the stories I read, watched, and was told.
“My, what beautiful blossoms we have this year. But look, this one’s late. But I’ll bet that when it blooms, it will be the most beautiful of all.”
I was an awkward kid growing up. I didn’t know how to act around people. I was smarter than most, but I had a hard time paying attention. I felt out of place all the time. Part of me felt like I was out of place because I was stupid and worthless — this makes me wonder if I’d had major depressive disorder even in childhood. This manifested in very frequent crying until at least fourth grade.
But I kept telling myself that I was different because I was special, and because I was going to end up being the most beautiful, special, amazing person of all. I was different because I was going to grow up and do amazing things, and people would look at me in awe.
As I grew up, though, I realized how foolish the whole concept was. Mulan wasn’t about me specifically. Tons of kids probably watched Mulan and Hercules and other movies with similar themes and thought they were special snowflakes, too, and statistically speaking I most likely can’t be the most specialest snowflakiest of them all. As I grew into my teens, and especially late teens, I realized that this concept of being extra-special simply wasn’t true. I was just another guy, and thus I did not deserve any special recognition.
“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
And incidentally, this was around the time I more seriously contemplated and eventually attempted suicide.
So whenever I told people I felt like I was just taking up space, people would tell me, “You’re not just another person, you’re Justin! You’re awesome, and smart, and kind, and creative, and wonderful! You deserve love and happiness, and I wish you’d see that about yourself.” Paraphrasing here. But I couldn’t buy any of that. I’m not special. I know it to be true. It has to be.
But in the past few years I’ve realized the truth, and I’ve had to keep reminding myself of it ever since I found the ability to put it into words. Both of these attitudes I’ve described are flawed, but they’re also both partially true. I’m not the most special snowflake of all. I am just another person. But the truth is that I haven’t been treating myself like another person — I’ve been treating myself like I’m less than a person. Like I’m trash.
I am just another person, and like other people, I have boundless potential for greatness, for innovation, and for self-actualization. My friends and family are people, and each one of them isn’t the most special snowflake of all, but they’ve all done good things, and they’ve all made themselves and others happy in their own ways. Those movie gods and rock stars are people. The guy who gave me my burger is also a person. We’re all people, and we can all do great things.
It’s time I start treating myself like a person, and I hope you’re doing the same. Let’s all appreciate ourselves and each other, and let’s all be good people.