*and so is everyone else
It was Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club who said you are not, leading to the emergence of the phrase ‘special snowflake’ as a put-down to anyone who dares assert their individuality too assertively.
Anyone who’s seen the movie (and you should, it’s great) would question the sanity of taking life advice from Tyler Durden, but let me assure you: he’s wrong.
You ARE a beautiful and unique snowflake. Yes, you!
Each and every human is entirely unique, and there will never be a repeat. Even if you are an identical twin, you are a beautiful and unique snowflake. If you’ll indulge me in a bit of the science, it’s all to do with our marvellous brains.
At the nature level, our individual genes influence the architecture of the brain.
Differences arise at every level of the organ’s astonishingly intricate architecture; the human brain contains 100 billion neurons, which comes in thousands of types and collectively form an estimated more than 100 trillion interconnections. These differences, in turn, lead to variances in the way we think, learn and behave.” Scientific American 2012
Then nurture comes in and shapes the brain. We’re actually born with more neurons than we have later on, but ‘they’re young and inexperienced’.
“Let’s go back to when you were a kid and your parents taught you how to wipe your own butt. The first time you wiped it was awkward, you probably wiped poo poo everywhere and had to concentrate really hard. The neurons in your cerebral cortex were firing in the pattern of butt wiping for the first time. Every time you wiped your butt afterward, the neurons practice. Pretty soon those bunch of neurons that fire whenever you have to wipe your butt form a butt wiping team called a neural network. Today you probably do not even have to think when you wipe your tushy because your neural network has formed such a cohesive team- congratulations!!!” APPsychology.com
We now understand that the brain is incredibly ‘plastic‘. No, not ‘made from petroleum by-products’. The term refers to its ability to change – for better or worse – at any time in our lives. Until the 60s we thought the brain could only learn in childhood, that it was fixed by adulthood. Now we know that while it becomes less plastic with age, it is still very changeable. What’s more, we know that by changing the way we think about something, we can actually change the brain.
Every single experience you have shapes who who are. Unique neural networks develops to allow you to manage the specific circumstances of your environment. From the first time you open your eyes and take a breath, your brain is taking in and storing data and using it to create unique mental models of the world. Each new piece of data changes it, and us. Although we have many capacities and traits and beliefs in common with each other, at a fundamental level we are, each of us, completely unique.
This fascinates me on a number of levels and I’m sure I’ll post about it again but for today let’s just make the point. You are a beautiful, unique snowflake…and so is everyone else.
We need to get over the idea that difference is bad. It just is. Expecting everyone to be the same is pointless: we are not, and never will be. Hating people for being different can’t go anywhere good: we are all different.
The human capacity for diversity is what makes us great. We are a species that has figured out how to build pyramids, how to fly into space, how to cure diseases, how to create art and music…why on earth would we want to limit ourselves? We are all beautiful and unique snowflakes, and it’s time we embraced it.