“Every individual is a meeting ground for many different allegiances, and sometimes these loyalties conflict with one another and confront the person who harbors them with difficult choices” – this is what Amin Maalouf said in his infamous book “In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong”. I am that individual he speaks of!
Allow me to elaborate on that: My mother is Egyptian and my father is Lebanese. My mother is a blond and my father has green colored eyes! I was born in Egypt and raised in Lebanon most of my life. My name is American and my family name is Greek. Contrary to expectations, my first language was English and not Arabic, and I had the opportunity to learn French from being around people who spoke it! In a class of 39 students, I had 22 nationalities, all of which clearly reflected their origins, except me – no one could tell where I’m from, no one came even close to guessing. Good or bad, I stood out! In the words of Amin Maalouf, I harbor many different allegiances that conflict with the stereotype!
Recently, I moved to Egypt, back to the motherland, but this time, I am not just visiting, I’m here to stay. For those who haven’t met me, I wear diamond earring and I have five tattoos on my body, one of which is an abstract portray of Jesus Christ on my left wrist! I’ve been in the country for less than a week and already my friends have started asking me to remove my earring, since it’s socially unacceptable to be an “Arab” and have one! So if my intention is to blend in, I have to abide by the norms of society. With all due respect to culture and society, what they call conformity, I call fear!
Why are you afraid of being different? What good has ever come from being average? The combination of the words exceptional and normal (or average) is a paradox in itself. How can you have a personal brand, when you don’t have anything personal to start with? “Wake up and smell the homos” said the Genie to Aladdin. Times have changed, what are you waiting for to claim your brand, your identity?
In establishing your personal brand, you need to “stick out”. If you are a copy of everyone else, you are as likely to get the job as the next person. Dare to be different, dare to be unique, drive the change, challenge the status quo, only then can you reach your potential. Wine connoisseurs “swirl and smell and spit and then spout out the same classic terminology every time, how the bouquet was rose petals or the finish was silk” – but what the hell does all that mean? Gary Vaynerchuk turned his father’s liquor store from a $2 million to a $60 million by reinventing the rules and talking about wine by using terms and phrases everyone can understand and relate to. He went against the norms of the “wine society” and he Crushed It. Don’t be a victim of “the norm”, embrace your DNA, be yourself, and don’t be afraid to put it out there. Don’t plagiarize your identity! Move up Maslow’s Hierarchy pyramid, from the need to belong to the stage of self actualization. Don’t be stuck in a rut and just follow the herd, the grass IS greener on the other side and there’s plenty of it. Seth Godin said in a video posted by Chris Taylor on Goose Educational Media: “If you continue trying to play by the rules in a system that is fundamentally broken, don’t be surprised if you don’t get what you want!”
Maalouf asked “Would I exist more authentically if I cut off a part of myself?” I would ask “Is it more important to be authentic to oneself or to society? Are you willing to lose yourself to gain the world?” I am proud of who I am, and it is a result of all the influences in my life: family, culture, religion, education – but I am my own person! Are you? Think About It!