A few months ago, I was doing some reading for research, and as I was reading Erikson’s ideas on identity I came up with this line – Be Unique, but Belong. It was the summary of the section that I was reading. It wasn’t even what I was reading about that at the time, but the summary was that as individuals, we all have a fundamental need to be unique and different, but belong to the group.
As individuals, we all have different experiences, genetic makeups, family systems, and personalities that make us unique. Our fingerprints are all different. Even identitical twins aren’t completely identitcal. Everyone has this longing and need to be different from everyone, special, and unique. You express this through your personal sense of style and the clothes that you wear. You express this in your blogs and your ideas. You express this with your profile on myspace or facebook. We are all different.
Yet at the same time, we all have just as strong a personal need to belong to a group, tribe, or community. There is a healthy desire to be a part of something – a family, a social group, or friends. In fact, it is in community or groups where the expression of your individuality and uniqueness shines through. In the context of others, you are then unique.
There needs to be a healthy balance between uniqueness and belonging. It is possible to be an individual and completely express your individuality and uniqueness and at the same time belong to a group and experience that sense of belonging that comes with it.
When there isn’t that tension, when there isn’t that balance, it can have adverse affects on your sense of self. On the one hand, if you’re too individual and too unique that groups will not accept you, then you lose your sense of individuality because – you have become so unique that now you’re weird to the group. Unless of course you find a “weird” enough group to belong to and then that balance can be maintained once again. You want to be unique, but not weird. But if you start becoming to “weird,” then you need to changes communitities where your “weird” is actually normal. Then you are able to express your uniqueness and be unique once again.
Be unique, but Belong.