DIFFERENT-BUT-SAME (Un-Seeing Exercise)

DIFFERENT-BUT-SAME (Un-Seeing Exercise)

Lately I’ve been stumbling over books and assorted other offerings by shiny people and various sorts of life-advisors parsing out all the advantages (plus some of the disadvantages) of “being different.”

If you do this, they say, you will stand out.  You will be an “interesting” being.  You will be a Winner-with-a-capital-W.  Maybe you’ll even get to be rich and famous.  And isn’t that a cool thing?

The problem, as these life-advisors will also tell us, is that “being different” can turn your world into a battlefield.

Despite what some of these folks seem to be saying, this “being different” stuff is not just a matter of adopting some stance or other that looks good on you and pretending to be that.

“James, I think your cover’s blown!” by Ludovic Bertron via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Author Mike Stutman has a take on the thing that makes a lot of sense to me:

You can make life very simple or very complicated. Some people try to be what others want them to be.  Others try to be different just to stand out.  In both cases, they are changing themselves to impress others.  Neither of these paths has a heart.

Stutman goes on to advise, “Just be true to yourself.  It’s that simple.”

It can also be the most difficult thing in the world to pull off.

Resolutely insisting on making adamantine self-disclosures of your own, latest truth-of-the-week without taking into account the sensibilities of the folks around you may not be the best way to proceed on your own journey.

“Ridiculous, hilarious and an absolute treasure….” by Bennilover via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
For one thing, it has the unfortunate tendency of leading to outliers and outsiders hitting a number of defensive “walls” that have been built up from the collective will that is an inherent part of any group of people among whom the different one happens to be.

The other people in these scenarios have a vested interest in how things are now.  They don’t particularly care about your individual take on things nor do they want to even consider how you want to change their outer consensus-world to suit your own self and your own needs.


Here’s how the familiar argument goes:  Even though there are billions of us humans on this here planet, each and every one of us is an individual, different from every other person in the world.

Even Science agrees. DNA signatures, it has been found, mark our body fluids, our fingerprints and other bits of our skin or hair and can be used to differentiate us, one from the other.

It’s an old cliché:  All of us are just like snowflakes — as unique as a frozen water droplet can be.

“First Snowfall” by Don Komarechka via Flickr [CC0-1.0, Public Domain]
That’s a truth, but have you ever noticed how a whole pile of snowflakes can end up looking like slush when conditions change?  Like individual snowflakes, us humans tend to get a bit schlubby when things heat up.

“Slush” by David Copeland via Flickr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
When you are the different one among the many who are more similar to each other than they are to you, it’s likely that heat will be applied.  It’s also quite probable that unless you are really being who and what you are, you may adapt yourself right out of the “stand” you are trying to make.

Either that, or you will spend a heck of a lot of time getting around a lot of obstacles that arise because of your differences which you may feel obliged to keep on explaining and explaining and explaining in order to stave off blatant attacks.


Actually, this may be one way to tell whether we are truly being ourselves or if we are trying really hard to be The Great Pretender.

If you’re truly being yourself, you might not be able to change around your presentation of yourself enough to suit other folks.  You may not be inclined to spend a lot of your time explaining yourself to them either.

In the middle of our celebration of our own uniqueness, we do tend to forget that us humans are more alike than we are different.

All of us have feelings.   All of us can be hurt.  We all have basic needs that we want to satisfy.

Many of us want to “belong” to something bigger than ourselves.  We very often want to make our own life stories meaningful.  We all want to be “understood.”

All of us get lonely.  All of us are unsure of ourselves at times. None of us has all of the answers.

What we choose to reveal of ourselves – the ways we differ from and the ways we are the same as the other people around us — are a matter of choice. They are probably the only choices we can actually make as individual humans.

Sometimes the choices we make can be directed or even dictated by the world around us.  When you feel like you’re an outlier or an outsider, it’s a given that you will probably be aware of the collective might of the people around you.

“Spoon of Disapproval” by eightson via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
In places where there is less tolerance for different, you might have to get very good at learning how to at least simulate being “street legal”.  If you’re in a place where being different means you might get burned at the stake or shot in the head for not being the same, this is an important life-skill to cultivate.

(Working on ways to get out of that gnarly place is also a good life-skill to develop.)

If you’re in a place where it’s okay to be different, be grateful. This is an incredible privilege that you have been given, I say.


Mayim Bialik is an American actress who is best known as the title character in the NBC sitcom “Blossom” from 1991 to 1995 and later as the neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler in the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” from 2010 to 2019.

In real life, Bialik really has trained to be a neuroscientist. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in between acting stints.  Besides this she is an active vlogger and social media maven with millions of followers.

Since 2015, she has spent a lot of time exploring (and explaining) life-style choices – her own and other people’s – as well as the ramifications and results of making such choices.  Her thoughts about it all are often quite interesting.

I suppose Bialik could be described as a poster-child for “different.”  She’s made a career of highlighting all of her differences, after all.

The following video, “Hurts To Be Different” was uploaded by Bialik in 2016 and features her thoughts about what it feels like to be on the outside looking in.


This YouTube video, “Being Different” is a slice of life that was uploaded in 2019 by “Caught In Providence,” a local weekday television show that captures real-life people in the middle of their stories.

This one happened in Judge Frank Caprio’s traffic court in Providence. It features a young autistic boy whose mom is in court for a number of minor traffic violations.

The boy in the video has no choice but to be different.  Diagnosed as autistic with a side-order of ADHD, he received a lot of help and worked very hard at finding his own social footing in the world in which he lives.  In his own, quiet way, he is a powerful inspiration.

“Being different is beautiful (sometimes)” by Niccolò Caranti via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]


It does seem to me that every one of us humans are both unique and “different” as well as “universal” and “generic” at the same time.  All of us are multi-faceted that way.

How well we fit into the world around us can depend on which part of that spectrum of human attitudes and habitual behaviors that is within us we choose to reveal to the people around us.

Trying out different stances and reveals or choosing to move to another place with people who are more accepting of who we really are can help us find the place where we are most able to be true to the self we most want to be, I am thinking.

Here’s a poem:


Some people, I guess, are searching to find

The Perfect Other

Who will balance them,

Who will bolster them,

Who will compensate for

Their own halting gaits

So they can walk upright in the world.

They get enraged by the imperfections

Of the one they’ve chosen to hold them up.

They are bitter when their needs are not met.

They feel betrayed when the one they looked to for support

Turns out to be a broken reed.


Me, I guess I can walk.

I do not really need a cane

That’s polished all fine and

Decorated with chased gold,

A thing of beauty and opulence,

Turned by some master’s hand

To purest perfection.

I can stand without needing to be

The envy of some faceless crowd,

Hungry for something to fill their own emptiness.


Me, I’d rather fly,


But, flying things need some place to land.

Creatures of the earth are we

With legs and feet that need solidity.

All I need is an arm, I think,

And a warm hand that’s welcoming,

And a soothing voice to talk me down

From the heights I have been exploring,

A voice that calls me back to the world

When I try to go too far,

Caught in the song of the winds

And the allure of wide horizons.


That’s what I am searching for.

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Being Different” by Lawrence Murray via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

12 thoughts on “DIFFERENT-BUT-SAME (Un-Seeing Exercise)

  1. This is a very interesting post and one I can relate to.

    I have ASD, but it was only diagnosed recently as a much older adult.  It has been totally exhausting trying to fit in all my life, and trying to be seen as normal, when I was far from it.

    I just wish I could have learned just to be me and not trying to be what I wasn’t, just so I would fit in.

    We are all basically the same and striving for the same things, yet we are uniquely different.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Geoff, thanks for your visit and for sharing your story.  I am glad that this post resonated with you.  Perhaps now that you know more about your differences, it will be easier for you to work with them.

      Please do come again.

  2. Edwin Bernard says:

    I found this post to be very profound. It exposed two basic facts. We are all unique individuals like snowflakes. But just like snowflakes, we have much more in common than we are different. 

    The general conclusion to just be yourself instead of trying to meet the expectations of others is the best approach to living life. I like Mayim Bialik and felt compelled to view that video. She discussed being a nerd which made a lot of sense to me. The other video of the mother and autistic son blew me away. The poem at the end was like the icing on the cake. 

    Thanks for writing this inspirational post. 


    1. Welcome back, Edwin.  I’m pleased the post resonated with you. 

      Please do come again.

  3. Mazie Dixon says:


    I find this post to be quite an interesting read.  Your quote from Mike Stutman really resonates with me.  Within the content of this post, you have evoked some very thought-provoking moments which I find very impressive.

    I personally like the images you used to bring across your point.  Since none of us humans really have the answers to every situation I guess we just have to remain true to ourselves.

    I thank you for this very insightful post as I think we need simple things like this to keep us grounded.


    1. Mazie, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I agree that remaining true to yourself is probably the best bet.

      Please do come again….

  4. Hi Netta, I have also noticed an uptick in messaging around “being yourself” in recent weeks. The one that got my attention was for a “diet” soda brand that urged people to Love What You Love (with the subtext that what you love is different). I’m all for knowing yourself, but I can’t help but feel annoyed that this message comes from a global company pushing a brand with over a decade of steadily declining market share. 

    The numbers suggest that customers have decided they don’t love this product as much as they used to, so it will be interesting to see if this marketing campaign helps to boost their sales. 

    1. Hee!  I haven’t seen that ad yet. 

      I just had a weird thought:  If being an “outlier” becomes a mainstream trend, does that mean that the real outliers have to turn into dweebs or herd-animals or something in order to be deemed “different”?  

  5. I read this post because my son when he was 4 would always say “It’s different but the same, mommy” He would always say that when he was exploring the world around him and discovering new things. Wisdom of a child before the adult world corrects or scolds him into submission.

    “…we tend to forget that us humans are more alike than we are different” from your post is something the “powers that be” of this world are trying to make us forget, permanently. We are unique in many ways. That’s what makes us individuals, but the things that make us unique are not the sum total of who we are.

    No matter what language, locality, culture, or country we are from, all humans cry, laugh, smile, frown, shout, whisper, are happy, angry, and can feel emotions. All humans want to love and be loved. “…the same, but different, mommy.”

    Thanks for your insightful writing.

    1. Delois, thanks for your visit.  I especially love your story about your son.  Beautiful!

      Please do come again.

  6. Rich-allee says:


    This was unbelievably touching and really hit deep with me. It’s both a confirmation and a revelation of a lot of thoughts i have battled with and resolved over the past few years. 

    I especially resonated with where you said – ‘In places where there is less tolerance for different, you might have to get very good at learning how to at least simulate being “street legal”.’

    Until recently that was a lifelong source of confusion to me, until i finally realised “get in where I fit in, and don’t judge where I don’t”.

    You’ve masterfully summarized a set of internal problems that I think a lot of people are facing in the modern world. I hope that many more people get the chance to read this, and I’ll do my part in sharing it.

    All the best to you, and continue to share your insights and poems with the world.

    1. Rich-alee, I am so glad it resonated with you.  Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      Please do come again.

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