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