Because our backflips are all different

I’m thankful for the people in my life whom I don’t know who remind me of the important lessons in life.

Especially when those people are little kids who are way smarter than they even know.

On a recent walk on the beach, I saw a girl doing backflips of a tiny sand ledge that had formed naturally near the water. She was ridiculously good, and as I walked by, I made sure to let her know. When I told her, a little boy with her (I’m assuming her younger brother) yelled “watch me!” before performing what I can only describe as one of the most uncoordinated front somersaults I had ever seen combined with a turbo roll of some sort.

When he got up, he looked at me and smiled before shrugging and saying a statement that I wish we were all saying as comfortably and confidently as he did.

“Mine’s a little different.”

Yes, that was the perfect word for it: different. What was so wonderful was that he wasn’t ashamed of that at all. In fact, he was pretty darn proud. He had made it a point to have me watch him perform his own version of the tumble his sister had perfected, and by most people’s definitions, his was so much worse. To him, though, it was worthy of showcasing.

I told him that it was beautiful, and I wasn’t lying. Sure, when I first saw it, the word “ugly” probably popped into my mind. But when I realized what it was to him and how he had actually tried, my perspective changed entirely. You see, what this precious little boy has already learned at such a young age that so many adults still haven’t seemed to grasp is so simple: Our lives are going to look completely different from other people’s, and that’s perfectly fine. We don’t need to shy away from who we are and the things we can or can’t do as well as other people.

Because beauty looks different for everyone.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the comparison game—suddenly we’re not smart enough or pretty enough or fast enough or thin enough or strong enough or making enough or talented enough or dating enough or experienced enough or traveled enough or social enough or whatever enough. It seems that someone’s always doing a backflip that’s better than yours, while you’re following with an uncoordinated somersault combined with a turbo roll of some sort.

But what if, rather than getting frustrated or feeling embarrassed that the things in your life look different from those in everyone else’s, you embraced those distinctions and were proud of the things you’ve been able to accomplish and were happy to say that you’re still trying. What if, when you started comparing some aspect of your life with someone else’s, you stopped for a moment to say “mine’s a little different” and were OK with that?

As a single girl approaching my mid-30s (IT CAUSES ME GREAT PAIN TO SAY THAT), I have to do a lot of that in my life, especially around the holidays. I’ve definitely embraced it in terms of making my own Christmas cards that look quite different from most of the ones I receive with families and couples and pets on them. Mine features only me—and sometimes a superimposed orca whale jumping over me—but hopefully someday you’ll get a card from me with my lobster (but the Friends version of a lobster and not an actual lobster, which I realize might be confusing based on my previous statement about the whale).

At church over the weekend, we were setting up for all of the Christmas Eve services and were creating a photo setup so that people could take their pictures in front of a pretty lit-up backdrop with a wreath in the background and trees on both sides. We were trying to make it the perfect size for families to take pictures. I understand why, but I also had a soft spot in my heart in that moment for all of the people who would be coming to church by themselves. I took a picture by myself in the setup right after I had just taken a picture of a precious couple followed by a family all together. When I looked at my photo, I couldn’t help but think of how different it looked from the ones I had just taken. For a second or two, I started to feel sad, but then I remembered the little boy on the beach, and I reminded myself that different isn’t bad. I didn’t need to look at all of the extra space in my photo and see emptiness—it’s merely extra room to welcome in more people in my heart and give more love.

You don’t have to be like everyone else. You won’t be. And you shouldn’t. Your life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. It won’t. And it shouldn’t. You may have a pristine backflip, or you may have one that resembles that of the turbo-rolling little boy on the beach. Either way, give yourself a little grace for simply getting out there and trying.

Because, either way, you’re enough being you, regardless—and especially because—of how different you are.

When you’re comfortable being the real you

I think it’s important for people not to be afraid to be different from those around them.

Because our differences make us unique.

My brother was in San Diego last week for a work conference, so I drove down there Monday night to have dinner with him. It’s very rare that any of my family members are in California, so I didn’t mind making the trek on a work night.

When I got to his hotel (which was where the conference was, as well), he was at a networking event. I got tired of waiting in the lobby, so I decided to find out where he was exactly. I befriended some women who were at the check-in table, and one of them led me out to the terrace where the event was. After making my way about halfway around the area, I spotted him chatting with a few people and didn’t want to interrupt. I had two options: I could stand around by myself and pretend to be looking at something interesting on my phone, or I could go talk to some of these people who probably didn’t want to talk about the things I wanted to discuss with them (you know, like the non-work-related stuff).

I obviously chose the latter.

Maybe my lack of lanyard with a nametag was a dead giveaway that I was an outsider.

I joined in a conversation with Nader and Randy, two older gentlemen who were very interested in their roles in the healthcare industry. After I asked a bunch of questions about their personal lives, they asked me what I do for a living. I had a brief moment when I thought about fibbing a little and playing the part of someone in their line of work who belonged at the conference, but then I remembered that I don’t like lying and that I’ve learned that it’s always better to be yourself in every situation ever.

I told them that I’m a proposal writer and was going to leave it at that, but they wanted to know more. I said I write for an infrastructure company, and they assumed it was hospital-related. I clarified and let them know that it was construction and infrastructure. Their facial expressions said exactly what I knew both of them wanted to say to me in that moment: What the hell are you doing here? So I smiled and then made Randy, who now lives in the Midwest, tell me all about his years of living in Texas.

I hated middle school, and looking back on those years makes me dislike almost everything about the person I was back then. I was selfish and constantly trying to be someone I wasn’t. I think that I was so insecure about who I really was that I was completely afraid to be me. I’ve accepted who I am, and while it’s healthy to grow and make changes in your life that are needed in order to better your life and your character, I also think that it’s important to be comfortable being you—no matter how messy and imperfect that person is.

Each sunset is unique and wonderful—just like all of us.

You don’t have to be afraid to be you. If you’re always acting like someone you’re not, then people will never really know the real you. For me, I want to know people fully and be fully known myself. I know that being open can place you in a rather vulnerable position, and there are certainly times to be a bit more guarded, but I think there’s value in letting people know the real you—the one we don’t necessarily see on Instagram. It can also help them to be more comfortable being more open with you, as well.

It doesn’t mean that everyone will expect you to be completely real with them, and they might not know how to respond at times. Take the woman in the bathroom at my work last week. She works in the company next to mine, and I’ve seen her in there before, but she’s not one of the ones I’ve gotten to know very well (I’ve had a lunch with some of them and text a few of them pretty regularly). Two of my buddies who work with me had just jokingly insulted me, and I was not acting dramatic about it at all. When I walked into the bathroom, the exchange below occurred.

Me: Hi! How’s it going?
Bathroom buddy: I’m good. How are you?
Me: Hurt and betrayed (again, not said in an overly dramatic voice by any means).
BB: (stares at me confused for a few seconds and then turns and walks out).

Neither of us was expecting what had just happened. I had to shrug it off. I’m not for everyone—and that’s OK. You probably won’t be for everyone, either. But, if you pretend to be someone else, that person also won’t be for everyone, so you might as well just stick with the original you.

You were made to be you on purpose. You’re where you are right now for a reason. The experiences you’ve had—both good and bad, wonderful and trying—haven’t been for nothing. Don’t hide behind a pretty life filter. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, even if that means that you’re quite different from everyone around you.

Because different can be truly beautiful.