It’s often said that “Everyone is unique in their own way.” What makes anyone unique is their perspective, perception, interests, hobbies, and passions. Uniqueness cannot be defined in simple terms, it can just be felt and observed. It’s the nuances that make us unique. When people look around, they see the differences as it’s human nature to compare. Comparing is good in the sense that one knows where they stand. But as soon as the feelings of jealousy and ego kick in, the battle is already lost.
Today, thanks to the internet and such high connectivity, people often feel the need to present themselves and try to stand up and stand out. They do anything to prove their specialty even though there is nothing to prove. In our hearts, we know that we are unique. There is no need to broadcast it. The ones that care about us, already know us enough to respect and understand us, removing the need to even try to stand out.
Diversity is present everywhere. People are diverse in terms of perspective, approach, and interactions. You know how your friend is unique and different from the rest, but does the world need to know that? If not, then what is this race?
All of us are part of a race, it is never-ending yet always continuous. It starts from when we are young. Sharma Ji’s son started drawing classes? Let my son attend 2 extra classes as well. Parents also want their children to go to the best kindergarten possible, the best school, the best swimming classes, and so on. As we grow older, it is fixed, that to be an engineer say, for example, the child will be joining the coaching institute and prepare for JEE. Then he will give 10 different exams for the best chance for university.
For applying to many other prestigious universities, the competition is so strong that now every applicant has got an NGO that they started, a startup, a research paper, and even summer entrepreneurship programs. A lot of students might want to not follow that, but as part of the process, they need to be the guinea pig, doing what everyone else is doing, for a slightly better chance of getting the bait. As people go into colleges, they look at their peers and their extra activities and follow to do the same. Be it Leetcode , robotics competition, or whatever.
All of these activities become toxic pretty soon. Now if everyone has started doing everything (which is good actually) everyone competes to such an extent that is becomes pointless
Even in selecting majors in higher studies, people just follow the trends, but if they were allowed to explore and then decide based on their interest, they might do it differently. But instead, in this rat race, they never know anything beyond books so they simply follow the trends which puts oil on this fiery rage of the race.
At every stage people want to stand out. To be different from others, which is also carried into career, as people see famous people’s paths and follow that, to stand out among other candidates and get promoted.
In the past, a long time back, our parents wanted to put the child into English medium schools, to be different from everyone else who studied in their local language. This trend not only highly depreciated local languages , but it also became a norm after a few years. This was once again started with exams like JEE (AIEEE), NEET, UPSC. These exams were formed to evaluate a student based on his ‘on the spot’ thinking and reasoning abilities, but as time passed, coaching institutes were established so that their child is now different from everyone else and has a probable edge over others.
It also now suddenly depends on economic and social disparity. A lot of people who are super talented do not have access to research topics, etc. while to participate in lots of summer programs, etc, it suddenly becomes economically unsustainable for a lot of people. Certain criteria were made to judge by talent the individual has, but it has now become a race to prove your talent especially in career opportunities. And some people cannot say prove with the limited resources they have, making this purposefully biased.
This trend has now gained momentum with black marketing and brainwashing by companies like WhiteHatJr, who want to supposedly teach 6-12 year old kids - coding (based on scratch and fixed tutorials). Parents, on hoping that their kid gets a new startup or innovation at a young age, are easily influenced, and enroll in these programs. Some kids who are not even interested in this are forced to attend, and even the programs are not that good. On the notion that they will suddenly be different and skillful, the basic abilities to explore and enjoy a particular topic are compromised.
It is also the society. Instead of how talent was to be judged say for university admission, now certificates are judged. It has become a race to stand out by getting the certificates, rather than by your own skills.
The key problem with being different from the herd comes in because of the rigidity of the system, if you do different you suffer, exploring beyond academics is not incentivized, it’s generally the case that the outstanding person has to stand out of the class, be it a problem in attendance or lesser marks in boards.
Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
“In the RACE to stand out, we SUPPRESS our TENDENCY to stand out”
Say there is a collection of pencils. There are several non-colored pencils and a few special colored ones. The blue pencil thinks, that the red pencil is so different and successful than I am. We see red being used more often, but on trying to become red - we do not see that like red we are also different in our own way from others. And in this race (to stand out from the other pencils), we strive to become that RED pencil, by suppressing our own tendency to stand out(individuality) i.e. our own colors
The basic human tendency is to follow the proven(which we perceive as assured) paths, and finding the most stable possible way out! The desire to have everything simpler and almost the attitude of being spoon-fed (due to an excess of resources at disposal), has lead people to simply not explore and research, and develop the tendency to follow what’s been “successful” for others! Why do we try to go for government jobs? - for the financial stability, but this tender to find stability leads to the RAT RACE in UPSC… Rather than learning to be unique(having your own color), everyone tries and to be the red pencil, and this following of a proven path leads to the rat race to stand out eventually, so rather than the rat race being ended it just merely shifts from one to another. Today there’s a rat race for STEM learning, tomorrow it will be for selling MBA to kids. Therefore we need to redefine and rethink our definition of standing out!
How it destroys an “individual”
The fact that everyone is an individual might be an overstatement, but the notion is very prevalent. In this race, as everyone is rising up the canopy to get some sunlight, they often follow worn paths of accepted success. These paths are already traversed, but it doesn’t mean that they guarantee success in any form: be it fame, acceptance or influence.
While trying to “stand out” people often follow what the already successful have done. This way they become mere followers and become trapped in the other’s way of living. But to stand out, one does not need to look out, rather look in.
People fake their standing out to reach out and make an influence or even just to make money. But there are other ways to reach the top, and following isn’t one of them. Also, we can’t become someone else - not overnight and neither in a lifetime. As it takes a lifetime to be someone unique, but many more to change or convert into another.
Thus, following a trend or even a person is not the way to stand out, it is just changing the definition of what isn’t standing out.
Dilemma of Fame v/s Freedom
Let us say you are a YouTuber or a digital artist, and suddenly one of your creations (and its style) blows up on social platforms. You are met with two choices - To continue creating the same type of content or albeit, explore your creativity and do what you like to do. The Fame, and the economic incentive, kills the creativity and the ichha(drive) to explore and create what you like to create. Often, with a majority of people, it often concludes to create for what is liked by the algorithm, the people. And in the process, they destroy their style and contentment.
In this race, we start idolising people who have been to the places, and what goes wrong here is that instead of following the fact that they were different from the herd which made them stand out, we simply try to replicate them, trying to be conservative and sometimes even subjugating one’s individuality and genuineness, and what it leads to is lack of purpose and the “WHY” in our actions. The issue is well highlighted with the fact that most of the best coaches are never the ones who were best players, the reason being that rather than following the path to success blindly by imitating, it’s more important to learn from their journey and the guys who failed have this to share. This is the reason why most people following the Youtubers about some Google Internship or Admission into Top College, never achieve the feat!
The Problem is that we need to stand out in our own ways, but not in how the other one does, or how the society thinks he does. The definition of achievement has become to stand out.
Being different from the herd is difficult and problematic, but also gives more returns. Be a pioneer. Think for yourself.
Do not follow the trends, and what others do. Following a trend or even a person is not the way to stand out, it is just changing the definition of what isn’t standing out.
The way to simply stand out is to be yourself.