Discovering, owning, and expressing the unique attributes of who you are is foundational to constructing a meaningful life.
There is no one like you. Never has been; never will be. No one will ever know what it’s like to be you, think like you, see like you, act like you, or dream like you. There’s no one who will ever express themselves like you or make a mark like you. The world needs you to discover, own, and express the standout you.
There’s beauty and wonder in all the differences, isn’t there? There’s no way we could all be alike- the world would be terribly predictable if we were. All the beauty, wonder, and creativity come through integrating the differences.
Fitting in is vital to a life well-lived. Belonging to others is key to feeling safe and cared for. It’s through others we experience and express love. Everyone needs safe, trusted people. Everyone needs a tribe. But relationships get funky when we don’t pay enough respect to the differences we bring. When we expect each other to see, think, feel, and act like we do- those are the ingredients of conflict and misunderstanding. When push comes to shove, though, most people will hide or mask or negate their own uniqueness if it threatens a bond.
That’s why it’s so important to discover, own, and express the standout you. We need each other not only to accept and appreciate the differences but to also see the differences in each other. We serve as mirrors of identity and uniqueness; it’s only by getting closer to people that we understand who we are and what makes us different.
To understand what makes you truly unique, you must do two things:
- REFLECT AND RESPOND TO GUIDED PROMPTS
- TALK WITH PEOPLE YOU TRUST WHO KNOW YOU WELL
We created a course for students called The Standout You. It’s a guided curriculum intended to facilitate self-awareness in you and confidence in who you are. They’ll find open-ended, reflective questions designed to spark thinking, curiosity, and insight. For every question we encourage students to take it a little deeper than they might normally. This isn’t a curriculum to get through and complete, it’s a journey to guide them to understand, own, and express. Like anything else in life, the more students put into it, the more they’ll get. Also, the more they share their responses and reflections with others, the better. The more they listen to other students respond to these prompts, the better. It’s in the back- and-forth of sharing aloud that they’ll be able to understand more, connect more dots, and see patterns. It’s through the sharing that they’ll find the confidence to own and express what makes them standout.
In the course we guide students through a series of prompts and reflections questions relating to nine themes. Those nine themes are like lenses they look through into their lives that helps them see what makes them distinctly unique. The proven process of prompted reflection questions, peer sharing, and conversations with adults will help students grow in self-awareness and confidence, and it’s the foundation of a well-formed identity. Those themes are:
The Foundational You: Your backstory foundations set the course of your life. The time and place of your birth, your siblings (or lack thereof), the relationship of your parents, your ethnicity and culture, even the view of the world your family has was placed in your life for you to make sense of. Almost like water to a fish, you might not even notice the weight of impact your foundations have had on your life to this point.
The Biological You: You aren’t a blank slate- you were born into a body with genes and DNA. You might not have spent much time thinking about it, but the biological you has shaped your life- how you act, how you feel, how others interact with you, and how you carry yourself. You might find some of these questions to be very personal or vulnerable. Unfortunately, in our culture we place a lot of importance on how we look. During the adolescent years, as our biology changes, it’s especially important to regularly pause and reflect on how we’re being shaped by the body we live in.
The Social You: When it comes to friendships, nobody does it like you. You bring your humor, interests, quirks, values, and moral code. The ways you care, listen, encourage, and challenge are all unique to you. That’s what makes you such a valuable friend. Taking some time to reflect on who you are as it relates to relationships is important to not only being the friend that you want to be but also finding the friends that you want to have.
The Philosophical You: What you believe in, how you see the world, and the values, principles and convictions you carry and express are a key part of what makes you who you are. For many people, their philosophical foundations are abstract and unconscious. But, they drive everything you do and say. That’s why it’s so important to spend time reflecting on them and clarifying them. For every day that you live your new experiences, interactions, and connected ideas will build, change, or alter your philosophical beliefs.
The Experiential You: The experiences you’ve been through have shaped your outlook, perspective, and attitude. Each experience you go through stays with you, and your brain naturally seeks ways to make sense of it. No one else has experienced what you have; no one interprets your shared experiences the same way. Without realizing it, you might make meaning out of your experiences that doesn’t serve you or help you flourish. That’s why it’s critical to recall and reflect on your experiences. You always have the opportunity to change your interpretation, to rewrite the story.
The Creative You: You were created to be creative. You came out of the womb that way. Whether it was stacking blocks, attaching Lego’s, singing and dancing or selling cookies, the unique viewpoint, style, and connections that you make as a creative are like a fingerprint to you. Learning to reflect on your creative style, natural abilities, and motivations will help you realize your unique identity and find the confidence you need to keep creating. The world needs you to fully embrace your identity as a creative.
The Working You: How you approach work, whether it’s schoolwork, chores like folding laundry, or an actual 9–5 job says a lot about who you are. The teen years are challenging when it comes to work- you are given assignments and tasks whether or not you want them and your compensation varies and is not guaranteed. However, this is a critical time not only to understand yourself better but to make decisions about how you will approach work for the rest of your life.
The Preferential You: Where are you going? What will you do? What kind of person will you turn into? There’s no one else like you- not now, and not then. Learning to take time to think about your future, dream even, will help you grow more aware of the uniqueness of the path that you’re on. Even if you choose a role model to emulate, the way you go down that path and the person you become will have its own unique expression.
The Quirky You: You aren’t just unique, you’re weird. Not in a bad way- just a quirky way. Put ketchup on scrambled eggs? Always jump over the cracks in the sidewalk? Chew your toenails? Pronounce Wed-nes-day? Talk to your plants? Yeah, we’ve all got them. Quirks, idiosyncrasies, and bizarre rituals. They’re a part of what makes you unique and delightful. Odd? Yep. Annoying? Perhaps. Authentic? You betcha. Reflecting on your quirks is one step towards becoming more self-aware and more self-confident. Be you- everyone else is already taken.
The final exercise is a presentation project, whether in written, video, audio, or a public speaking medium, where each student answers the ultimate question with clarity: What makes you standout?
What you'll get:
You matter- your life has meaning.
You have something to contribute- the world needs you.
You’re worth knowing- worthy of love and friendship.
You have a great story inside you, waiting to be told.
Every student knew made them truly unique?
Every student had a clear sense of where they come from?
Every student knew what direction their life was headed in?
Every student felt accepted, had caring adults involved in their life, and knew they were cared for?