the magic christmas: lessons from my holiday tradition
there is beauty in believing

we are snowflakes: how to celebrate uniqueness in others

"And here comes the snow... A language in which no word is ever repeated."

William Matthews

 

Over the weekend, the sky was filled with falling snow. It was the most snow I'd seen in a long, long time and the area where I live declared it a blizzard. Where I'm from, we get snow, but blizzards are rare. Watching all of those snowflakes fall down, I was reminded of a book called Snowflakes that I once picked up in the bookstore. I recall picking up the book and flipping through it, utterly fascinated by the images of snowflakes, each unique and each so magically beautiful. (Today, after going to Amazon to grab the link to this book and checking out once again, I decided to order it. I rarely buy things for myself this close to the holiday, but I couldn't resist its beautiful images...) I can remember standing in the aisle, holding that book, and thinking, "Wow. This really is amazing." We're all pretty familiar with the idea that all snowflakes are unique, but seeing them in all of their unique glory really hit home for me. (If you haven't already clicked on the link, check out Snowflakes on Amazon and "Click to Look Inside" to see some of the images from the book.) I've always known snowflakes were unique, but seeing them really makes it more real. 

And, of course, it brings me back to that analogy between snowflakes and people that implies that we, like those little flakes of snow, are all unique. While there are so many similarities between us as people (which can be a great thing!), we really are all so unique and, when you think about it, that's pretty amazing. There are so many people -- just like there were so many snowflakes in the blizzard I saw this weekend! -- yet we're all uniquely who we are. It's so cool to think about it that way, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. How can we be unique and still keep our connection to others? How can we, like snowflakes, come together to make the world more beautiful? When you think about how rarely we really see an individual snowflake, how we see them falling from the sky in clumps, clinging to each other, we really can see how much we are like them. We are unique, but we want to be together. We need to be together. 

This is a concept I've often struggled with. For the most part, I've had the desire to be different. I've always wanted to be unlike anyone else (though, in high school, I'll admit that I bought in quite heavily to that whole conforming thing). To be compared to someone else has always been irritating to me. Even when it's been complimentary, I always think to myself, "I'm nothing like that person. I'm me." Perhaps that's one reason I clung so much to that Snowflake book. I wanted to be a snowflake. I wanted to be so unlike anyone else. Just like a snowflake, I wanted to be something that could be examined very closely without it being at all difficult to tell how I was different from all of the others. 

It's so easy to place ourselves and others in boxes. It's so easy to define each other by appearances or skills or qualities. We want that, I think, because it makes us feel like we've got people figured out. It's always so much easier when we can describe someone simply. Think about how much easier it is when you can say to someone, "Oh, she's really nice. You're going to like her," rather than those times you have to say, "Well, she's nice, but... She can have a bad attitude sometimes. But usually she's nice. Most of the time. Don't worry, you'll like her." When people are easy to figure out -- when we can put them neatly into a category like "nice," we like that. We want to be able to simplify things, and I get that. It makes things a lot easier, and who doesn't love easy? 

Unfortunately for us, when we get down to the heart of it, we can't really put people as neatly into boxes as we'd like to. People are more complex than that. People are more unique than that. Even the nicest person in the world can be mean. Even the most horrible person can be sweet. (For more examples, think back to 1998 and check out Everlast's "What It's Like," with lyrics that go something like, "I've seen a rich man beg/ I've seen a good man sin/ I've seen a tough man cry/ I've seen a loser win/ And a sad man grin/ I heard an honest man lie") As you can see from these lyrics (and thinking about examples you've probably seen in your own life), you know it's not always that easy to compartmentalize people. Every person, every situation, is unique -- and instead of trying put people into categories, we should embrace them for who they are. 

Just like when I was flipping through the book filled with page after page of unique snowflake images, it can be overwhelming to see everything as separate and independent and so, so different. We want things to be in categories so we can understand them. We like to be able understand things and sometimes we come across things or people that just don't fit into categories. When this happens, we can feel overwhelmed. But what if we stopped having categories? What if we realized that we could all be uniquely who we are all the time and that we didn't have to fit into anyone's categories (even our own)? What would that be like? Scary, yes. Overwhelming, yes. But also liberating

What would it be like if we came across people the way we might an exotic animal? What if we assumed nothing and waited to learn about them, waited to hear what they had to say about the world instead of making assumptions based on their appearance or our preconceived notions of what a human of their age/type/race/gender/ethnicity/religion/etc. should be like? What if we started out with every new person we met as a completely clean slate? What if we truly saw everyone for the unique person that he or she is? If we stopped comparing and contrasting and realized that, no matter how hard we tried to categorize someone, he or she would only fully fit into one box -- his or her own -- the world would be a lot better. We wouldn't be assuming people should act or be a certain way. We wouldn't be judging others with the harshness that can sometimes jump so readily ahead of even our most kind thoughts. 

 


7 Ways To Celebrate Uniqueness In Others

 

  1. Have an open mind. It's easy to focus on what's familiar to you and to look for things that you have in common with someone else, but, when you open your mind up a little bit you might find that someone's differences are much more apparent and those differences can be pretty great. Embrace the ways your mind can help you see someone in a new light. 
  2. Think independently. Of course it's easy to go with the flow and go along with what other people are doing. If you hear from someone else that a person is negative, for example, it's easy to start thinking of that person that way. But stop for a minute and think about how unique people are, you'll probably realize that it's best to assess others for yourself and find out what's really going on with them. 
  3. Avoid harsh judgments. Sometimes I find it so tempting to label someone very quickly after only one or two interactions, but it's never a good idea to jump quickly to assumptions. Additionally, it's never a good idea to judge others harshly. Most situations and people are not as simple as we'd like to think they are, which is always something you should keep in mind.
  4. Stop stereotyping. Stereotypes make it so easy for us to put people in boxes. They make it easy for our minds to think they understand someone, but, while we can't deny that there must be some reason for stereotypes, it's pretty safe to say that using them is a bad idea if you're trying to celebrate someone's uniqueness. 
  5. Look below the surface. When you meet someone for the first time, it can be so easy to make quick judgments based on appearance alone, but think about how that would make you feel. Would you like to be judged based only on your appearance? Aren't you more complex than that? I'm sure you are and so are others. Look below the surface to find their unique traits. 
  6. Don't fear the unknown. We are often quick to put others into categories because we are scared of not knowing what they are. We want to be able to understand them, but, really, if we just put them in a box, we're not truly understanding. To celebrate the true unique nature of someone else, you have to get over the idea that the unknown (or unlabeled) is bad. 
  7. Seek the positives. Just because something is different or unexplainable to you doesn't mean it's negative. When you're looking at others and trying to celebrate the ways we are all unique, think about the good things. Think about all of the ways it benefits us as people for us all to be unique. All of our differences are awesome and it's so important to see the positive in them. 

 

 

 


We are all snowflakes. We are all independent of one another and, though we are drawn to one another, and may even have similar designs, we deserve to be seen as independent, distinct creations that cannot ever be 100% defined. Like snowflakes, we are changing. We are snow and ice and water. We are like each other in many ways, but we are never the same. I cannot stress enough how important it is to remember this, to know that, though it may seem like you've seen a "type" of person before, you should never assume that you know everything about him or her. He or she, just like you, is unique and it is this uniqueness that makes us all so amazingly awesome. Don't forget about the uniqueness in others and, just as importantly, don't forget about the uniqueness in yourself. Cliche as it might seem, you really are unique. There is no one -- and never, ever will be anyone -- just like you. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty cool. Embrace your uniqueness and celebrate it every day and in every way you can. 


How do you celebrate the absolute awesomeness of being uniquely you? 
What tactics do you use to remind yourself that others are unique? 

Comments

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I'm just like you. I like to think every pea in the pod is unique.

I love your snowflake/people analogy and so seasonal too :-)

A good reminder to look at others with a fresh untainted eye and allow them the opportunity to reveal their uniqueness to us in whichever way that might be.

The snowflake book is gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing that with us. I'm thinking about buying it too.

My favorite thing you said is "What if we assumed nothing and waited to learn about them, waited to hear what they had to say about the world instead of making assumptions based on their appearance or our preconceived notions of what a human of their age/type/race/gender/ethnicity/religion/etc. should be like? What if we started out with every new person we met as a completely clean slate? What if we truly saw everyone for the unique person that he or she is?"

I think it would be wonderful if we could suspend judgement and assumption, if we could put our pasts on hold and see someone with fresh eyes. I think this is a particularly applicable thing during the holidays, when many of us will be spending time with people with whom we have quite a bit of history. What would happen if we saw these familiar people as new people? How would those relationships develop without baggage?

Nothingprofound - I'm so glad you agree! Everyone really is unique and it's so important to celebrate that! And thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate the feedback.

Mummy Zen - Thank you! I'm so pleased to hear you enjoyed it. It's sometimes very difficult to view others without judgment, but we're a lot better off if we manage to do that. Thanks for your comment!

Daphne - Isn't it amazing?! I kept thinking about it and so I decided that it was time I bought it. I really like how you tied some of the questions I asked into the holiday season because, you're right, we often have to spend time with those we have a lot of history with. If we were to suspend judgment and try to see things for what they are (instead of what we think they should be), I think we'd all be a lot better off. Thanks for your great comment!

That is one awesome photo. I loved reading the tips as much as the comments. Your tips always make sense and make me see the world (and life) in new ways. :0

-meream

I love the quote you chose to open this article. Love.

I also love what you've said about thinking independently. It wasn't that long ago that women or non-Caucasians or the mentally handicapped weren't considered inferior.

It really pays to form your own opinions about people.

Meream - Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I'm so glad you liked the post and the photo as well. :)

Hayden - Me too! I saw that quote in the Snowflakes book and thought it was great. So perfect! You've raised such a great point about how things used to be and how, if people hadn't thought for themselves, these things still might be that way.

One of the ways I find the snowflake in others is I look for their super skill. Everybody has a super skill, even if their super skill is making others annoyed. I can always ask, "how do they do that so consistently?"

Hi Dani,

What you wrote is so true. We are all unique, just as each snowflake is. I love the part where you shared to look beneath the surface. What I've found is even when we meet someone who appears to have it all together, they too have issues and are looking for validation. To echo what you said, although we're all different, in many ways we're the same.

Happy Holidays Dani! Happy New Year! And...happy blogging! :)

J.D. - I love the idea of a super skill. It's so true that everyone has one and it's amazing how well people use their skills (even if they're negative ones!).

Barbara - It's definitely important to look below the surface because, as we well know, things aren't always what they seem. As unique as we all are, we do all want the same things (like love) and we mustn't forget that when we're looking below the surface at others. I hope your holidays are wonderful!!

Dani,
"We are all snowflakes"...I love that! Like snowflakes floating down through the winter sky, we are all like that - moving through our life - unique and original. This really is touching to think about, and how we can celebrate that uniqueness in each of us. Dani, this is wonderfully written!

Well, Dani, All I can say is that I am thankful for all the little ice crystals, the drops of water, the currents of the air...everything that worked together to make you the unique snowflake that you are, cause that snowflake is pretty awesome.

Dani boooooo!!!

really inspiring article. can feel your undiluted love for existence :)

yip. we do like to simplify our understanding of people. "she's nice but pathologically deranged. mostly nice though." It makes things less uncertain and us human creatures love our control.

"People are more complex than that. People are more unique than that"
- uh uh dani boo!! Unique is a unique word. It is not a pumped-up synonym for unusual. There is no such thing as 'most unique' or 'very unique' or 'rather unique'. Something is either unique or it isn't, and damn few thigns are.

...but in the midst of all that I'm not so sure anymore how different we all really are. We're snowflakes. But snowflakes don't believe their own publicity. And we are unique, in as much as a wave is unique, but we're all part of the same oneness, if you will. And on a less Buddhist Zen magic level than "we are all one" malarky, I really think that people all have the same stuff. Went to a workshop the other day where we did a very poof-poof "let's hold hands and share our life stories" type of group love session. And initially i was like, "bleh. this is hippy shit." but then opened up to it and it turned out that all of us had the same insecurities and situations and worries and all that.

And yeah, every person is unique. Nobody is like you. Specially you dani :) But everybody is also the same. And i think you can't split the unique from the oneness. It's just different brush strokes painting the same picture.

Seeing uniqueness without the oneness makes you feel separate and distant and removed.

Oneness without acknowledging your uniqueness makes you homogenised and self-inhibiting.

I think, for me at least, the best possible way to approach it is to be unique. "Here I am in all my glory, embrace the weirdness that is Alex!!" but at the same time acknowledge that we're all the same.

The wave isn't separate from the ocean :)

happy holidays dani boo
alex - unleashreality

Dani, I adore this post! ;) Thank you for sharing!!
My best takeaway though there were many was this one:
Snowflakes
We are unique, but we want to be together. We need to be together.
You write beautifully and so much resonated with my spirit!
thank you very much for this gift today!
be blessed,
luv Jenn

Lance - I'm glad you liked the analogy! We really are all unique (even though we're similar in many ways) and it's really great to be able to celebrate the uniqueness in each and every one of us.

Jay - Aww, what a beautifully written and kind comment! You made my day by writing that! :)

Alex - I love what what you said about the word "unique" and how it's such a distinct adjective. It really is and what's great about it is that we really all can say we're unique. There is no one else just like us in all the world! This is such a great way of putting how we are unique but alike: "I think you can't split the unique from the oneness. It's just different brush strokes painting the same picture." That is SO well-said and I really agree with that. We all have a uniqueness to us but we are all similar. Really great comment, Alex! Thanks so much for your insights!

Jenn - Thank you! I'm so happy you liked this one! :) I really appreciate the comment on my writing and it warms my heart to know that you really enjoyed this post.

Hey Dani, the last pointer is the most poignant for me. It might seem like a common sense piece of advice, but if we really go into it, and look for the positive, we are often stunned by what was there all along - but we denied. Thanks for a great read, and have a great Xmas!

Well said. We each are unique and beautiful. Let us celebrate that. Merry Christmas.

Albert - That one really is something we hear all the time, but sometimes it's hard to remember. If we look for the positives in others, we'll find them (and vice versa!).

Erin - Thank you! We are all so unique and sometimes we forget how important it is to celebrate that fact. Thanks for your comment and a very Merry Christmas to you too! :)

dont fear the unknown =) love it!

Rocky - Me too! It's hard sometimes not to be afraid of what we don't know, but it's awesome if we can be brave and not be scared!

I like unique people and have learned in Al-Anon to accept and have compassion. That being said, there are people who have "terminal uniqueness" and seem to revel in making it a cause and to force it. I would rather just be who I am and if that is unique to some, that's okay.

Syd - Acceptance and compassion are so important and those are both so essential to the underlying purpose of this post. You've brought up a very interesting point about those who force their "uniqueness" upon others. If we're all unique, there really isn't any need to force it. As you said, it's best to just be who you are and to be okay with that.

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