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You Are (Relatively) Special

One of a series of ÒsnowfakesÓ that are the product of an elaborate computer model designed to replicate the complex growth of snow crystals. Created by mathematicians David Griffeath of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Janko Gravner of University of California, Davis, the model can generate all of natureÕs snowflake types in rich, three-dimensional detail.
Used and distributed with permission by: UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067
Photo by: courtesy courtesy Janko Gravner and David Griffeath
Date: unknown File#: file provided 02/09

We all want to feel special. It’s easy to go into the data and elaborate on what the deep seated root of this is, but I think we can all agree, we just want to be able to have that moment where we feel like our existence means something to others. Specialness can do that— “My life has purpose because of the unique perspective I bring to the world.” Feeling special makes people feel good about themselves, it raises self-esteem.

Lately, though, it seems the general attitude is to quash any feelings of specialness as an overly sentimental by-product of parents that were too soft on their children. The old “everyone got a trophy” diatribe you hear all too often about a generation that “slipped through the cracks.” But why? What made everyone so acrimonious? I suppose the phrase “misery loves company” may be relevant here. It would seem there is a large contingent out there that want to invite you over to drown at their “Cynicism Pool Party.”

The truth is, no one is THAT special on a global scale. But when you look at the world that you exist in, the world that is touched by your day-to-day, the picture looks a little different. Lets take IQ as an example because it is based solely on statistics hence easy to quantify. Let’s say you have an IQ of 145. You are a pretty smart person. You catch on quick and things seem to make sense. In fact you are in the top 1% of the population in intelligence. However, there are 7 billion people in the world. When taking this into consideration, there are roughly 15 million other people in the world who have the same IQ score as you. You are 1 in 407, as in for every 407 births there is one person with an IQ that high. Suddenly, you aren’t so special! 

But this is where the relativity comes in. How many people do you know? Even with the advent of social media and the internet, we don’t know THAT many people. According to  Facebook, the average user has 130 friends. If we use the example above of someone with a 145 IQ, all of the sudden they might start to feel special again when only considered against the people they know. 

Maybe you are a runner. Chances are you aren’t the fastest runner in the world. However, you may have the best mile time in your apartment building. Maybe you aren’t the funniest person alive, but you could be the funniest person at your office. 

The point is, that even though you aren’t a unique little snowflake, you may still take the superlatives in a lot of the peoples lives around you. Specialness is relative to the group you are considering. In a world where we’re only as big as our networks, you’re pretty special to a lot of people who rely on you to be their dose of funny, or phone-a-friend, or baking expert. Just because you aren’t the best dancer of the estimated 108 Billion people who have ever lived, doesn’t mean you aren’t pretty damn good. 

It’s ok to feel special in the world you exist in if it makes you happy. Dust off your mantle and make a space for the “Best Scrabble Player I Know” trophy I’ll be sending over. You earned it.

Written by Joey Camire

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