I took my youngest children to the pool the other day. I was wearing the bathing suit I had purchased new last year, and I was also wearing my newer, cute, matching sleeveless cover-up. The suit is brown (‘the new black’, I had been told by the salesgirl) and white patterned on top. The bottom is a cute, coordinating, brown skirt, with a white and brown criss-cross tie. Last year, while the other ladies sitting by the pool watching kids were still in black (so passé!), I was decked out in the new cool color. I even had large, brown sunglasses, brown and white sandals, and a matching beach bag. I was set! Imagine my horror upon entering the fenced in pool area today, in my suit, which had been ultra cool last year, when I saw not one but five brown suit skirts in the exact color I was wearing! My first reaction was to want to crawl under the nearest pool chair and my first thought, I’m sorry to say was, “I’ve got to get out of here! I need to get a new suit! I wonder if I have the checkbook to stop at Kohls on the way home? Turquoise…turquoise might be a nice color…”
At the root of this full-blown vanity attack was this realization: I wanted to be different. In fact, we all to some degree want to be unique. We all want to carve out a place in this world which is just our own. We don’t want to wear the same outfit as someone else or sport the same haircut. What else could explain a woman being mortified at seeing another woman wearing “her” dress at a party or evening out? Why else do children argue, “I” said it first or saw it first or thought it first? Wanting to be unique explains why my daughter programmed “favorite child” as the identification for her ringtone on my cell phone. Why, it’s the reason people even get ringtones. People want to be unique so they do things that mark themselves as different. Some go farther than others in trying to accomplish this. They may paint their living room bright orange, get a tattoo, climb a mountain in South America, all for the sake of originality. Wanting to be unique is the reason people get annoyed when someone copies them. Tell me, when someone compliments you on your cologne or perfume, don’t you secretly hope they will NOT go buy the same scent? We all want to be original, like the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s “Pieta”. We want to be irreplaceable, unrepeatable, different.
Social Scientists tell us when the first born child is a high academic achiever, often the next child finds a different way to excel. If the first-born is a loner, the second-born is often a social butterfly. If the first-born child is high strung and ambitious often the next child will be more laid-back. This, they tell us, stems from a human basic yearning to carve out one’s own distinct identity. But do we need to?
The fact is, like a snowflake that varies in design from every other snowflake, we are different from one another inherently. God created us each with different looks, gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses. Romans 12:4 tells us, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another… we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…” We don’t have to try to be different. We simply are different. And if we rest in the fact calmly we will feel a heck of a lot better about ourselves and be able to appreciate others’ gifts more too.
St. Francis de Sales said, “Be who you are, and be that well.” Indeed. If we are always looking over our shoulders to see what others are doing like, or unlike us, then we miss the opportunities in front of us, the joy of the moment. We become like I was at the pool, afraid of looking like another person, not realizing that even if I was wearing the same thing as another woman at the pool, I could never, ever be the same as her. God’s infinite beauty and goodness causes Him to create no two things exactly alike. We are all different. We are all “an original”.