PART FIVE - THE UNIQUE YOU
"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is
no-one alive who is you-er than you!"
- DR SEUSS
We are all wonderfully unique, with our own special brand of magic that dazzles the world. We have our own personalities and characteristics, qualities and quirks, talents and skills, values and beliefs. We look different, sound different. And that’s a truly beautiful thing. But it’s a sad fact that in 2016 the tenth most googled question in the UK was “how to accept myself for who I am”. That means there are a lot of people out there who are likely to be feeling unhappy, dissatisfied, and critical of themselves.
We should all – every single one of us – appreciate our uniqueness. We should take pride in it, cherish it… LOVE IT. We should recognise our value in the world and to others. Celebrate our differences. Be the best version of ourselves we can be. So that when we form relationships, it’s the coming together of all these wonderful, unique lives – rather than feeling the need for us or others to conform to a ‘type’ or expecting others to come along and complete our lives for us. I don’t mean that in an unromantic way – I’m all for falling in love and finding soul mates – but if we treat ourselves with respect, love and kindness, and recognise what makes us special, we are better equipped to deal with relationships, with the world around us, and harness our uniqueness in a positive way.
So, with that in mind, Section 5 is all about YOU. Because, while we’ve recognised the wonder of relationships and the meaning other people have brought to your lives so far, you could argue that the most important relationship we have in life is the one we have with ourselves. We’ll look at what sets you apart, your personality and characteristics, where you values come from, your looks and mannerisms. How you see yourself, how others see you, and which unique individuals you have been inspired by.
YOUR CHARACTER AND QUALITIES
When I meet bereaved families and we talk about their loved one’s life and achievements, I always finish by asking “What were they like as a person?” It’s a case of ‘last but not least’, because I believe it’s the most important question – more important than where they went to school or what hobbies they had. But it’s often the hardest question to answer. People can look blank or struggle to respond. So, without putting words into their mouths, I try to gently encourage them along, perhaps asking “Were they an outgoing sort of person or more reserved?”, “were they creative” or “did they have a good sense of humour?” and gradually we build up a picture of this person they knew and loved. Such as…
Alan was thoroughly old-fashioned and very much set in his ways. All measurements had to be in centimetres and there was none of this small, medium, large nonsense. As for food, he knew what he liked, and he liked what he knew. Alan’s horror following June’s unsuccessful attempt to introduce garlic bread onto the menu one day, is a classic example. But he did love a cup of tea and was affectionately known to his family as ‘tea belly’.
Now, none of us are saints – we all demonstrate a colourful mix of behaviours from the good, the bad and, at times, perhaps, even the ugly. And I believe it’s important to give a full picture of who someone was, ‘warts and all’ as they say. But there are ways of being both accurate and respectful. For example, someone who was clearly argumentative, opinionated and brutally honest can be remembered as someone who ‘knew their own mind and liked to share it’. And you can see that most family and friends who are gathered on the day will appreciate this refined honesty and welcome the opportunity to nod and smile because they recognise the person I’m talking about. And that’s really important.
What’s also important is recognising that how we see ourselves may be different to how others see us. For example, the person we are at home may be different to the person our colleagues see at work. So this is an opportunity for you to express what you think are the traits and qualities that define you.
SO… how would you describe your character, personality and qualities? Click here for a list of traits…
If this list is slightly overwhelming then perhaps choose five words you think describe you.
Do you strongly recognise any of these traits in your parents, grandparents or other family members?
Do you have children or grandchildren who have inherited these qualities from you?
YOUR TALENTS AND SKILLS
Each and every one of us has a unique set of talents and skills. We are all good at something, and that something could be academic, artistic, practical, athletic, creative, humanitarian… or a combination of each. These talents may be helping you forge a successful career, they may be benefitting the community you live in, or the family you love. But each in their own way makes a difference – to us, to others and the world in general.
What are your talents and skills?
How do you use them in life? (Look back at life story, achievements, proud moments etc. to remind you)
Do they make a difference to others?
YOUR VALUES AND BELIEFS
With the exception of our unique genes, we all enter the world the same ‘blank canvas’. In the years that follow we will be curious, impressionable, we’ll learn from others and we’ll learn for ourselves. And, before you know it, the things we do in life, the relationships we share, the places we visit, the events we experience, will have all played their part in making us who we are, shaping our outlook on the world and forming our values and beliefs.
What would you say your values are? Is kindness important? Fairness, compassion, empathy?
What matters to you? Is it success, happiness, your home, your family?
What issues do you care about? The environment, world peace, youth unemployment?
Do you have a faith or any spiritual beliefs?
LOOKS AND SOUNDS
We’ve looked at all your personality traits, attributes, talents and values, but what about the most obvious aspects of what makes you unique – how you look and sound? I absolutely love that fact that as humans we come in all shapes and sizes, shades and styles. Just take a moment, next time you are out and about, and look at everyone around you. Such an incredible mix of heights and hair colours, face shapes and distinguishable features, ways of walking and talking.
I think it’s sad that so many people, especially women, seem to feel dissatisfied with how they look. Believing they must conform to a certain shape (usually thin) or age (very young). Even going so far as to having bits cut off or filled out. Yes, we’d all like to feel attractive, perhaps lose a few pounds here and there. But if we celebrated differences a little more, saw the beauty in them, appreciated what our bodies actually do for us rather than how they look to others, and understood what a privilege it is to grow older, we might feel happier in our own skins. We really owe it to ourselves.
You have your own personal look – for example, are you tall? Are your fingers long? Your eyes wide?
How do you like to dress? What’s your style? Has this changed over the years?
What do you sound like? Do you have a regional accent? Are you softly spoken? A fast talker? What sayings do you use?
Who do you look and sound like in your family? Are these living relatives or ancestors?
Are there any quirks or distinguishing characteristics that are unique to you? A dimple when you smile or a booming laugh?
You may have read through this section, asking you to identify your qualities, skills and characteristics and thought – “don’t ask me!” Which is fair enough. You may feel others have a better idea of what you’re good at and how you come across. But are you brave enough to ask them? If so, go ahead! But remember, unless you approach family, friends and colleagues who ‘know their own mind and like to share it’ you may not get a completely full picture. And, likewise, if you do ask someone who is brutally honest, you might not want to hear their verdict!
If you don’t feel up to the face-to-face approach, other places to look for comments on your character, skills etc. over the years are school reports, written feedback from employers, ‘thank you’ cards… if you’ve kept them, that is. Apparently my history teacher believed I was “A pleasure to teach with a very high standard of work.” While my Chemistry teacher felt I had “lost interest and therefore underachieved.” Oh well… you can’t be good at everything can you?
In Section Two – Your Relationships – you began to make of list of any famous faces you feel glad to have shared the planet with. Now that you’ve examined more closely your own skills, values and qualities, take another look at that list and think again about who has inspired you in life. Which artists, musicians, campaigners, scientists, politicians, humanitarians, adventurers, athletes, historical figures have helped to form your view of the world, given you words of wisdom, new ways of thinking, brave ideas, shaped your tastes and preferences, touched your soul, rocked your world?