Late modern - some prefer to call them postmodern - societies celebrate the singular, we adore what is unique and special, whereas the general and standardised is considered to be dull and unattractive.
The average human being with his or her average life is suspected of conformity, even stupidity. The new standard are not only authentic individuals with original interests and curated biographies, but also unique goods and events, communities and cities.
But the late modern society of singularities and fascinating new "identities" does not only know shining winners. It also produces its own specific competitions, inequalities, paradoxes and losers.
You are one with your circumstances. I am 65, born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Proud of my Heritage. Served 20 years in the Navy. I was stationed 4 years back home in Puerto Rico. I was also stationed in Rota Spain, Crete Greece and Stuttgart Germany. I had lived a life on my own terms. Almost ended 34 years ago, but I survived. Thanks to the Navy I had seen a good part of the world and I got a ton of stories and happenings. I had lived the life and still active and healthy. I am Retired and I am me and what is more important... I am Happy to be Me. Unique Experience of my Existence... despite losing a daughter to suicide I go on and live on. Because I am one of a kind, I am The Gypsy of the New Spain.
I think we're all unique and not unique at the same time. Depends on the context. As individuals, we're all different, no one is exactly alike, and each person's uniqueness should be appreciated. But what makes us work as a society is finding common ground where we can connect, and we shouldn't have to give up who we are in order to do that.
Each person really is unique and special. No one needs to strive for uniqueness. We should just be ourselves and go with the flow.
It’s a sort of paradox because besides being unique we are at heart all the same thing. According to the book “Rethinking Madness”, tension caused by these two polarities often triggers extreme fear, unhappiness and even schizophrenia.
There is a balance between the two extremes. It’s not a perfect balance but we can learn to move back and forth somewhere between extreme individualism and total dissolution of self.
There is a big difference in wanting to gain fame and recognition, as many are want to do, as proven by the many YouTube videos, blogs, and FB posts...15 seconds of fame seems to be a goal for people instead of something longer sustaining and consistent throughout life.
In the meantime, most people simply are unique by the fact that their experiences and circumstances are not replicated by any one else...similarities, yes, but perfect replication, no.
But, I think you know that...your question is "why"...discounting that not everyone wants that (many are content to live happily invisible to everyone except those they are closest to...), my opinion is that they lack self-esteem, are narcissistic, or value external trappings of notoriety/fame, money, facial recognition, etc.
Takes all kinds...those quietly working in the shadow for long term betterment of their world and humankind are generally thrown into a bit of fame or history books as a side effect of their work or achievement...but, like it or not, we as a society tend to look at those who wave their own flag the hardest and loudest...
Funny you should ask that. Lately it's been occuring to me every human being IS like a snowflake---identical from a distance, up close very different...what takes effort and what I've been trying to do with MYself is instead of trying to fit in, to appreciate and be PROUD of my uniqueness.
Think about it: have YOU ever met two people exactly the same? Maybe you have. I doubt it, but if you have, isn't that the exception which proves the rule?
Maybe that's the problem with some people: it's almost impossible to be like someone. Even TRYING is a sure setup for failure...at least that's the hypothesis I've lately been trying to prove or disprove as a premise.
The theory would be, happiness is accepting yourself, embracing your differences, having the courage to bring that person into the world for all to see
THAT can be very hard, but the alternative is putting up a false front, and letting other people interact and react to that fake person. So you're adjusting and fine-tuning a facade.
Allowing others to interact and react to the real you, conversely, might result in REAL adjustments leading to greater growth, self-awareness, and fine-tuning the REAL you to be more effective.
it's a western thing. in the east and up north people are revered more for being a member of the group. I'd suggest checking out the first few verses of the Isha upanishad from the yajurveda ("tena tyaktena bhunjitha" ) and the juntalagen in nordic country. These are both examples of philosophies telling humans NOT to be special and unique. I agree that it's an issue though ... and it creates a dilemma in a land where we are all supposed to be equal yet our economic and social rules tell us to be better than the next guy. a cognitive dissonance is created IMO.
Mediocrity is for everyone else.
You only live once, so why spend it living a life that has happened countless times?
Fortune favors the bold, so you might as well as make the most of every moment, take risks, march to the beat of your own drum, and if you are lucky your life won't be for nothing.
The good news is that we are all of us unique and special - each of us in our own way. This characteristic may be the single most common trait we all share.
Seriously, the individuals who make it into the history books - the names we all know and remember - are those individuals with particular qualities that made their accomplishments and achievements particularly notable. They are said to have some characteristic that caused them to be unique when compared with most other individuals. Most often, the stand out individuals are thought to possess a superior intellect although this may or may not be the case. Some individuals are best known for being extremely evil as certain notoriously cruel political leaders are known to be or to hae been. Most people like to believe themselves to be rather important which isn't all bad. A healthly self esteem would tend to cause someone to feel they were worthwhile and worth defending their own individual rights and freedoms.
By contrast, the average life would be viewed as the antithesis of being unique and special. As we humans seem to tend to do, things that are viewed as the opposite in one way are often considered to be the opposite in all ways (tending toward black or white thinking). So, if the unique is intelligent and special, the average is dull, stupid, and mundane. But it just isn't necessarily the case. As any Zen practioners would point out, we all whether unique as Einstein and Columbus or common as the neighbor down the street wake up in the morning and head to the bathroom to relieve ourselves. As unique and special as we all are - and I for one am willing to believe it - we also all possess our own degree of stink. It is after all a part of what makes us "special and unique."
The ironic thing is most people who try to be unique really aren't, where as most of us who are spent years trying not to be before we finally accepted who we are and embraced our difference.
The problem with your quarry is that one can be an individual while still being part of something, and likewise one can be a conformist yet never contribute to actual community.
Religions often demand conformity. There's a story in the Christian bible with sheep being compared to goats in that sheep are followers who will obey and goats will fight you at every turn and go their own way. Jesus's followers are the sheep, he's the Shepard remember...
The notion of being different may in the minds of many people elevate them to the centre of attention, albeit attention of a very transient nature.
I have worked for the ultra rich and I saw very little evidence of contentment or anything that might remotely be called happiness. Bertrand Russell said: "The only difference between the man at the top of the hill and the man at the bottom of the hill is that the man at the top of the hill looks down and the man at the bottom looks up."
With regard to winners and losers you might want to read 'Winners and other Losers in War and Peace' by the late Arnold Arnold: "All games have deliberately skewed odds that favour a winning outcome as in the best of three, five or seven sets in a game. However, when you change the odds to the best of two four or six sets in a game and you have two or more players of equal years of practice and skill a different outcome emerges, a draw.
Games are not won by superior skill, tact or ability except in very limited circumstances, viz, you step into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson, I think that the outcome is a forgone conclusion. Games are won by taking advantage of your opponents mistakes or inducing a mistake that gives you an advantage."
The current game metaphor of "winners and losers" has all but run its course and there seems to be nothing to replace it.
Contemporary Zen would chalk our need to feel special as "ego driven." But I think it's more primitive than that. We're "wired" to need and interact with others, and those who are perceived as special are more likely to attract love and approval from others---quite often, our very survival depends upon this.The rest of us have to work a lot harder sometimes to prove that we're worthy of other's time and attention.
Humans, for the most part, are intrinsically individuals, i.e. as we grow through childhood we develop, well most of us that is, our own individual personalities, traits, etc. Even identical twins often have their own individualities/traits, that IS nothing new even though the supposed 'Deep Thinkers' would have us believe different.
And I like think that the meme attached speaks volumes and says it quite precisely.
Though I will admit that there are those out there who, imho, do take it a bit too far.
I'm at a conference right now, and the keynote speaker yesterday was Malcolm Gladwell. He talked about a "basketball" mindset versus a "soccer" mindset. In basketball the team is only as successful as their best player, hence the reason why a Lebron James is so fervently sought after and paid so well as his skills, well maybe with another player, can lead a team to championship. Contrast that with soccer, where the team is only as successful as their worst player. In soccer is takes a complex coordination of moves/plays between all team members, along with patience, to get to score.
He talked about how for years America was in a basketball mindset and that seemed to work. However, in these modern times, we have serious, complex issues and problems to address that is going to take a soccer mindset. He stated that, unfortunately, too many of those in power in our country have this basketball mindset. That only those at the top deserve to be unique, special, and have all the wealth. This is creating an intense divide in our country.
I don't know if this answered your question, but I thought it related.
Unfortunately competition is one of the hallmarks of Homo sapiens … Babies cry to get their mom's attention … Just these days the media have embraced this addiction for self-adulation. Do people remember who won the bronze medal … not to mention those who didn't even make it to the podium.
I think the urge to be special is natural … Why would I feed myself if I didn't think I was feeding a worthwhile being? The unhealthy obsession with fame is a real problem.