This I Believe

Ben - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on May 1, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

We Are All Unique

I believe, beyond our differences, we are all unique. Generally, the things that make us unique are hidden while the things that make us different are visible. Some people choose to show their uniqueness to the world, and others choose to hide it. From my childhood into my early 20s, I wore an ankle brace, until corrective surgery eliminated the need for it. The ankle brace was due to a Muscular Dystrophy disease I carry called Charcot-Marie-Toothe, or CMT. It is a neurological disorder that causes damage to peripheral nerves. In layman’s terms, it causes the wasting of muscles in the arms and legs due to the lack of nerve stimulation. While I wore the ankle brace, it made me different, not unique.

Society has an odd way of defining who people are. Indeed, it is usually the differences society chooses as its criteria for defining someone. However, I believe it is the things that make us unique—those things we hold inside—that define us. I define myself through my actions and the decisions I make in life. I would be lying if I said my difference—CMT—didn’t have an influence on my decisions in life, but I haven’t defined myself by it. Often, people assumed I would be limited in my abilities to participate in common physical activities. Yet, those assumptions were never a part of my world. While hiking recently with a friend, Wendy, she told me that Sam, a mutual friend, thought I had lost my foot (because I had told Sam I used to wear a brace and had surgery). I laughed when Wendy told me this. I suggested she tell Sam that I grew a new foot. Although society has frequently defined me through my difference, I define myself through my ability to joke and be lighthearted about it. It’s what makes me unique.

To me, my uniqueness hasn’t always been apparent. I have never let people’s misconceptions about my difference bother me. It wasn’t until I gained the wisdom and understanding regarding people’s curiosity surrounding differences in humans that I was able to understand how I viewed my difference and how I reacted to people’s perceptions of it. Although society may define us through our differences, it is our uniqueness that truly defines us. It is up to each person to determine what makes him- or herself unique. For me, it is my ability to not allow my difference limit what I do and overshadow my uniqueness.