Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Katie Harp.

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I’ve always been a little different. 

I started my first business when I was seven and taught myself how to make websites when I was eight.  While other little girls were skipping off to ballet class or serving tea to their teddy bears, I was learning to code and poring over Forbes business magazine in the library.  To this day I would rather read a good book than watch any reality TV show, and I’ve been vegetarian for the last six years.  I’m a little unconventional and a whole lot weird. 

And I like that.

But I didn’t always accept my quirks.  I used to try really hard to fit in.  When I was in business school in college, I thought I had to fit in.  But trying to be “normal” just made me depressed and miserable.  Somewhere in between the grey pantsuits and the constant paper pushing and number crunching, I made a conscious decision to break free from the status quo and be true to myself.  No matter how many pencil skirts I wore, how much I acted professionally, or how much I pretended to be interested in the logistics of financial accounting, there was always a tiny glimmer of weird in me, like a voice of hope waiting to break away.

When I finally decided to embrace myself, quirks and all, I realized that I didn’t want other people to dictate the way I lived my life.  I went from desperately trying to be like everyone else, keeping my opinions to myself, and never rocking the boat, to wearing quirky buttons for a startup pitching event and making hummus on-stage for a talent show, just because I could.  I started speaking out on issues that were important to me and living life on my own terms, rather than based on the narrow standards of “success” and “worth” dictated by society. 

For the first time, the masks were off and I was finally free to be myself.          

I tell you this story because I wasted so much time denying who I was as a person and as a result I was stressed out, unhappy, and depressed.  I thought my voice didn’t matter, and I had been bullied into believing that I was just different and weird and wrong.           

But we need different.  We need weird.  And it’s not wrong.  Without people who dare to question the status quo, we would have no progress.  Without all the unique hues in our palette, life would be grey. 

When people have the courage to stand up + say, “This is who I am, + I’m ok with it,” we can promote a culture of acceptance + love.

And you can harness your differences in so many ways:

1. What makes you unique?

Maybe you have quirks or a special quality that isn’t quite like anyone else.  Maybe you love playing with cats from the shelter or singing the blues in the shower or eating toast with jam on both sides.  Everyone has something that defines them as a person and makes them unique.  It could be a trait or interest that is so natural to you that you just take it for granted by now.  Whatever it is, become aware of it and own it.

2. What are you passionate about?

Your passions are another area where you can really be free to be yourself.  If rock climbing is your thing, go for it.  If sitting on a beach in Bali and painting is more your style, rock on with your bad self.  There is probably something that dances around in your mind every now and then, but this time, listen to it.  Listen to what your intuition and heart are telling you to do, and start creating a unique life based on what you love.

3. What do you believe in?

When you start by reflecting and examining your core beliefs, you may realize you value different things from other people.  And that’s ok.  Maybe you value courage or compassion or wisdom or integrity.  Whatever it is, define it.  Let’s say you picked “freedom.”  How can you add more freedom in your life?  What does that look like to you?  Do you want freedom to be yourself, freedom to choose your destiny, or maybe freedom from negativity?  Decide how you want to experience that value, and start adding more activities in your life that align with your goals and values.

Everyone has a unique and beautiful voice to contribute to the world.  Your differences are your strengths.  Everyone who has ever lived leaves a unique dent in the universe merely by existing and being themselves.  Your voice matters.

And what makes you different is what makes you beautiful.

 

KatieHarpMy name’s Katie Harp, I’m twenty-one years old and I’m a designer, developer, and entrepreneur.  I’m the founder of Rebelsaurus, a website that curates the best products and services for entrepreneurs.  I think entrepreneurs can change the world, and I want to spread the message that different is beautiful.

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Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Nela Dunato.

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What if one day you woke up with amnesia?

How would you know who you are? How would you know what to do to keep your life running smoothly?

We wake up with a kind of “amnesia” more often than we realize.

In fact, I’m in a period of “amnesia” right now so I know very well what I’m talking about.

Just a few weeks ago I was so supercharged, enthusiastic and motivated, and it seemed like I was “downloading” inspiration for my upcoming projects all the time. I woke up early every day, excited to start working on my projects, and I was beaming with energy.

Then one day I woke up and something was different. I felt groggy and hit the snooze button. After several more snoozes, I finally crawled out of bed and spent ages getting dressed and eating my breakfast, postponing any meaningful work.

When I finally thought of my projects, my immediate reaction was “That’s stupid. It’s not going to work. Why am I even bothering? Maybe I should just quit.”

And then the realization hit me.

That’s not true.

My thoughts are not true, I’m saying this to myself because I’m having a bad day. It’s just that, nothing else.

For the first time I was able to discern that my thoughts are not the truth, spontaneously, and at the very moment when they were happening.

That was huge for me!

It immediately brightened up my day. Not to the level I enjoyed in days prior, but enough to keep the ball rolling.

I started thinking about all the other times when I quit at the first sign of trouble. It happened more times than I can count.

After a few days filled with bright visions and realizations about my purpose, I got slammed back into my old life, and the bright visions seemed like a distant dream.

Life is full of such ups and downs. I still haven’t found a way to avoid them completely, and perhaps there is no way to do that. Maybe that’s just how life works.

What often happens to people during this “amnesia” is that they sabotage their big dream by either giving up on it completely, or by taking action that is in conflict with this big dream.

I can’t tell you how to avoid getting into the “down” period, but I can suggest how to prepare for it so you minimize the damage.

When you’re in that supercharged, enthusiastic, inspired, dreaming-big mode, leave a physical trail that will show you the way.

There are many ways you can do this, and here are some ideas.

Write a letter to yourself
Imagine that tomorrow you’re going to wake up with amnesia, but you really want to continue on this wonderful path you now see clearly in your mind.

Explain to your poor, lost self what you’re trying to accomplish, and how you are planning to do it. Don’t just focus on the facts, include your feelings as well. Share your enthusiasm and explain why you feel this is the best course of action for you.

Put in as much detail as possible, so even your amnesiac self can paint a vivid picture in her mind.

Make a detailed plan of action
In order to make your big dream happen, there will be many steps you will need to take.

Some of these steps might seem too big and too scary for you once the initial buzz is over. Break them apart into small, manageable tasks that you can do even if you wake up grumpy and with zero belief in yourself.

This way you won’t lose momentum during your bad days. In fact, having one thing crossed out of your list may just be the thing to brighten up your day.

Create inspirational artwork
I love anchoring my big vision and the high vibrations in the form of visual art. Looking at this art on my wall helps me reconnect with my vision every day. As a bonus, these things also feed your subconscious mind with positive messages.

You can do this in any way you like. Everyone probably knows about vision boards, and this is a very powerful way to keep your goals in front of you all the time, and it doesn’t require any special artistic skill.

I like channeling my feelings and inspiration into intuitive paintings, and I hang them in my studio so I can see them while I work.

You can also create colorful inspiration cards that you can put around your apartment.

If you’re into crafts, you can make a piece of jewelry that will remind you of your big dream as you wear it.

Share your big vision with your friends or mastermind group
Do it in a written form: e-mail, Facebook post, or in whatever way you prefer to communicate with them.

When we’re in that big-visioning mode, our enthusiasm is contagious and your friends will believe in your vision as much as you do. Not only that, but they will call you out when you start backing away!

Why it’s important to keep it physical
Our thoughts change every day, and sometimes we buy into something that isn’t necessarily the truth.

Some of your thoughts are pure lies that your inner critic is telling you to keep you small.

We forget the gorgeous, wonderful things so easily.

If you keep your dreams only in your mind, or make just a few factual notes about them, soon enough it won’t seem real to you anymore. The reality of your everyday life will kick in, and try to push other less substantial things out.

You need tangible proof that will convince your amnesiac self that you can do this.

So go forth and anchor your big dream.

Put it in a form that will provide you with inspiration for months to come.

 

NelaNela Dunato is an artist, illustrator and designer. She also enjoys writing about creativity and teaching creative workshops.

Her mission is help other people to express themselves creatively, and show their authentic self to the world. She’s been doing this for years through her graphic design work, and recently she started empowering other creatives via her blog, ebooks and 1-on-1 work.

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