Living Well – Why do we feel bad about being different?

Vicky Trill's monthly column on fitness nutrition and exercise tips.

Have you ever felt different? Maybe the oddball or just out of it? I wonder why “different” usually feels wrong, ugly or bad?

At our wedding reception, a group of kids sang a song called “Different is Beautiful,” the chorus had a line in it that said, “different is beautiful, God bless variety.” Now, I have to be honest, Alf and I had a good chuckle and wondered why the song was chosen, but that aside I wonder, why don’t we see “different” as beautiful?

Last month I attended a fitness conference and during one of the exercise sessions, in a room with mirrors on three walls, I noticed the GIANT amongst the small fitness queens and I felt self-conscious. I was different, no one was anywhere near as tall or large framed as me. As I reflected on how I felt, I asked myself, why do I feel odd? Why does being in a large frame feel embarrassing at times? Even as I ask myself this, I intellectually know that different doesn’t mean bad, but it’s difficult to change the way I feel. Who makes these “standards of normal” and why do I believe them?

Each society and culture has its own “standard of normal”. When I was in China, I’m quite sure that my physical appearance was outside of the box of their normal, and again when I was in Africa, I was outside the normal box. I wondered, as I thought about height, whether there was a place on earth where I would be “normal” so I looked it up. I noticed that the country with the shortest average was Guatemala (Maya people) with the average woman being 4 foot 6 inches, and the country with the tallest average being Dinaric Alps with the average height of a woman being 5 foot 7 inches. I have never heard of Dinaric Alps. They grow them tall over there I guess, but still significantly shorter than me. I find that no matter where I go, my stature is not “normal.”

So that brings me back to my question, “Who makes these standards of normal?” Is it our society or culture? Is it the media or popular opinion? Or is there someone else? Who is the voice of truth?

I believe that being satisfied with who we are has everything to do with identifying the Voice of Truth, and choosing to believe only that Voice.

We have a children’s story written by Max Lucado titled You are Special. The story is about small wooden people called Wemmicks who do the same thing everyday. They stick either gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty and the talented ones always get gold stars, the others though, who are not pretty or talented get grey dots.

The main character, Punchinello, is one who is covered in grey dots, but one day he meets someone who has no dots or stars at all and wonders how this is possible. When he investigates he finds that stickers don’t stick on her. When Punchinello asks how this is possible she points him to the carver named Eli who made the wooden people. After pushing through his fear of being rejected again, Punchinello visits Eli.

“Hmm,” the maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the gray dots. “Looks like you’ve been given some bad marks.” “I didn’t mean to, Eli. I really tried hard.” “Oh, you don’t have to defend yourself to me, child. I don’t care what the other Wemmicks think.”

“You don’t?” “No, and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They’re Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”

Vicky Trill

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