Failure to be Special Syndrome and How Big Potential Can Help

Some days I suffer from Failure to Be Special Syndrome. Does this happen to you, too? Here’s how it goes: you are excited about an idea, and you feel like you are the only one who has it. You think and talk about it non-stop and start researching it, only to discover you are quite late to the party. Someone else, many someones actually, have already discovered, blogged, and hashtagged this idea long before you. You are not special. Because you grew up in a home where every day someone told you you were special, this news is not only unwelcome, it can be a little humiliating.

This morning was one of those moments for me. I woke up at 5:30 a.m., eager to get going on my blog work and jot down some organizing projects to photograph for a social media post. I’m new to blogging, but also to Instagram, and I’m excited to learn these new forms of expression and connection. I’m a fairly private person, so marketing myself through social media, and putting myself out there, scares me. But Ruth Soukup’s amazing podcast Do It Scared, has inspired me to do the things that scare me this year. I’m also coming off the heels of yesterday, when I went to two different parties and talked to multiple people about my organizing business and new blog. Terrifying! I went to bed proud that I’d stretched myself and excited for the day ahead. I was even convinced that my tag phrase, “Make space for what you love,” was so perfect for what I want to do, that it should be the name of my blog.

Well, it turns out there’s a wee little problem with that. A well known organizer, Melissa Michaels, whose book Simple Organizing, I read a few years ago, also wrote a book in 2016 called, you guessed it, “Make Room For What You Love,” and a hashtag to go with it. And, she’s from Seattle! And, she’s a great writer and organizer with a gorgeous blog called The Inspired Room and multiple books! She’s doing what I want to do! “Failure to be special,” syndrome anyone?

So what do I do with this “failure to be special syndrome?” I could quit blogging, and let it derail my goals. I could change my tag phrase, and throw away all of my business cards. I could chastise myself for not doing enough market research. Or, I could just pretend Melissa Michaels doesn’t exist, pray I never meet her, and continue on my way.

In the very recent past, I might have done any or all of these things. But, lately I’ve started to see another way. I’ve been reading a book called Big Potential, by Shawn Achor. The book is a rallying cry for people to connect with others to make a bigger impact on the world together. Instead of working as an individual for fame and glory, Achor’s message is that we literally shine brighter together. He gives a poetic example of dragon flies in Southeast Asia attracting more mates when they illuminate together, rather than separately. The Big Potential Response to my discovery this morning is to realize that while I’m not special, I am connected to something special that exists in my city. Without knowing it, I have tapped into the very same idea! I think Achor would argue that instead of pretending Melissa Michaels doesn’t exist, I should reach out to her. Through the lens of Big Potential, suddenly all the things that seemed like hindrances seem like opportunities: She is a woman living in the same city who is doing what I aspire to do! She has similar taste. Why not reach out and tell her that I admire her? Why not try to forge a connection even if it doesn’t materialize? Maybe she would agree to let me interview her? After all, I didn’t have anyone in mind, but I did have it as a goal on my list.

So in the spirit of Big Potential and doing the things that scare me, I will reach out to Michaels. I’ll let you know how it goes. And, I’d love to hear some of your Failure to be Special moments. What were they and how did you handle them?

Take care, and shine bright,

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