One of my international students knocked on my office door one day. She was a 21 year-old Korean girl that I would learn was here to study engineering. Although, as I also quickly learned, she didn’t like engineering. When I welcomed her into my office, she lifted her eyes briefly to say hello before quickly looking down again. When she began to tell me about her situation she could barely hold back the tears. She was clearly under a lot of stress. As it turned out, the decision to study engineering was not her own. It was a decision made by her father as the condition of going abroad. What she really wanted to pursue was art. This was the first time she had confessed her true feelings about the issue, she said, as the tears, held back for too long, flowed with relief down her cheeks, dripping on her notebook. Her father didn’t feel that art would prepare her for any kind of career and refused to pay for a useless major, she explained.
This story (from my upcoming book) shows why it is so disastrous to compel others to fit into a pre-carved mold, to fashion them by the we-know-what’s-right-for-you pattern.
I began reflecting on what it means to truly live authentically. It means living by the light of our own uniqueness, embracing it and more importantly, sharing it, for, our uniqueness endows us with gifts that are multiplied when offered back out to the world. How may this girl help shape the world through her art? Who can know the future of her life on either path?
But isn’t this ego? Isn’t it more spiritual to not press and push and assert ourselves? What is the difference between personal empowerment and ego? Or, between uniqueness and ego?
Ego just wants to stand out.
Individuality without YOU is just difference. ~Catalyst Yogi
Standing out, or, being different for the sake of being different, is not true uniqueness.
True uniqueness is the acceptance of your own gifts, talents and capabilities. It is the willingness and courage to live from your own authority, shape your own beliefs, forge your path and create your own destiny. It is the right to be yourSELF.
Ego is not yourSELF. It is an impostor shaped from images, roles, expectations and ideas—your own outdated ideas, as well as other peoples’.
We affirm our own existence. There is no one exactly like me. My attributes are singularly my own. My uniqueness is to be respected, cherished, honored, trusted. ~Guru Rattana
While ego, in its search for approval, fame, pleasure and glory, leads us inevitably into disaster, embracing our uniqueness—our true Self—allows us to better serve in this existence. After all, only you can offer what you have to give.