Embracing the “I”in Individuality

By Caitriona McMahon

Individuality is something I started to discover as early as 7-years-old and it’s something I now cherish. It hasn’t been an easy path but one certainly worth every smart remark received along the way. Today I want to share with you the importance of embracing the “I” in Individuality.

On entering primary school aged 4, we all did so in a row wearing identical school uniforms walking in the same pre-taught manner. From there, we all learnt the same lessons, in the same place, at the same time, year after year. But one thing the school system back then didn’t allow for was the uniqueness of being individual. Instead, if a child did something a different way yet got the same correct result they were singled out and put standing in a corner. Subconsciously what does that teach us? That it is not okay to be different or follow our own paths of discovery perhaps?

So what happens if we notice we start to feel different to others? What if we cannot stand one more second inside the metaphorical so called box society has created? Can we exist? What happens if we explode out of the box and all it’s glory?

Aged 7, I learnt first hand what it felt like to break free of the box. I participated in the sport of Racewalking (Go on, you know you want to google it). For those of you that might not know what it is, it’s the thing many call the duck walk. For those that felt the need to slow their car  to a halt as I was midway through a 30km training session on the main road it’s the weird run – or so you called it.

My dad was my first coach and he pulled out all the stops when it came to preparing me for being somewhat different. For example, he would carefully pick the busiest time in the local GAA field for me get some crucial training laps in.

As teams battled head on in the middle of the pitch, little Caitriona – hair down to her bottom – Racewalked the outskirts along the white line, hips going from side to side. As I did I began to notice the stares, the giggles, the comments thrown at me and even a hurley thrown at me on one occasion. You see, it is a very unusual sport to the naked eye. At the time it was hard to understand why he chose for me to train where and when he did but recently I discovered why and the valuable lessons its taught me.

I have discovered that after a few times around that pitch, I no longer cared who looked or spoke at me for that matter. They faded into the background. What they said or what they did had no impact on how I trained or the end result. He nurtured a  resilience in me that I was unaware existed. I was shown to keep my head up regardless of what others think of what you do .

Nowadays when I see this uniqueness in others it makes my heart smile. Have you discovered what makes you unique? Each and everyone of us has something that makes us different to everyone else. A talent, a passion, a belief, a goal, a vision. Today I say to you drop the attitude of what will others think. Drop the wanting to fit in element pre-programmed into our personalities  and embrace the “I” with wide open arms. Embrace the “I” that makes you a rare gem on this earth.

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