The Outliers

I’m not a big fan of generalizations and especially not of stereotypes. Part of this I’m sure stems from my having a disability that’s different than what most people are used to seeing. But I also just don’t think you can ever apply ideas or characteristics to an entire group of people. Even if the majority of said group happens to have the characteristics of a generalization or a stereotype, there will still always be people who don’t fit into that mold. The “outliers” of sorts. Therefore, I think it’s completely unfair to apply something to an entire group, even if there are only one or two outliers.

The CEO at my company shared an article with us on our company social media platform today (known affectionately as Yammer) that discussed Generation Y (those born between the late 1970s and 1990s). She’s actually the one who gave me the idea for this post. It outlined three points to be true of those of us born in that generation: 1) highly ambitious, 2) delusional, and 3) taunted (as in comparing ourselves on social media, etc). I have always kind of taken issue with trying to slap labels on groups of people because then you get into those waters of stereotyping, but I understand how articles like these are just trying to make sense of groups of people as well. It’s a way to try to foster understanding. However, this particular article stereotyped the hell out of my generation and I took issue especially with the second point – delusional. The argument behind it was that we expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter because we think we’re more “special” than everyone else. It also stated that we have unrealistic expectations. I think there are certainly people that fit into Gen-Y that have these characteristics (I think it goes without saying I’m sure there are members of Gen-X and the Baby Boomer generation even that probably have the same characteristics too) but I, and many people I know, absolutely do not. When I graduated college, the job market had started its steep descent from a plunging economy. I didn’t get a job for almost 6 months after I graduated and even that was pretty good. The job availability just wasn’t there. This wasn’t the case for past generations. For a lot of people, you went to college, graduated and got a job right away. That’s exactly how it went for both of my parents. It wasn’t even really questioned, it just happened. I think that really started to change with my generation and we were made painfully aware early on that that wasn’t how things were going to work for us.

I also watched my dad work hard every day at his job and my mom work hard to raise me so I knew from a young age the value of hard work. I knew that things didn’t just get handed to you in life; that you usually had to work for them. So I completely do not identify with the article’s assertion that we all just expect to be CEOs right out of the gate or expect some high paying job to just drop into our laps. I know there’s plenty of other people out there who feel the same way too.

I’ve always considered myself to be an outlier. For most of my life, I felt like it was a bad thing and it caused a lot of anguish. I probably would have wanted to be considered a classic Generation-Y just like my peers. I just wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want to be different. But as I get older, the more I embrace the fact that I’m different. I’m an outlier in more ways than just the fact I have muscular dystrophy or don’t fit the mold for a Generation-Y member. The world needs us outliers, whether we’re from Generation L, M, N, O or P. Living outside the box (yes, living, not thinking), is what makes the world interesting. If everyone acted the same way or had the same opinion all the time, what a boring world we would live in. So waitbutwhy, I am very happy to be an outlier to your theory as many of us are I’m sure. So the next time you think of a Generation-“why”-er, maybe see them as a person first and not just as a label or a birth date.

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2 thoughts on “The Outliers

  1. Hi Jackie,
    Thank you so much for your willingness to share your story with the public. My name is Hillary Jennings and i’m in the MOT program at Loma Linda University. Your blog is so beautifully put together and you’re artistic qualities are very apparent! My overall impression of your blog and how you try to live your life can be summed up in one of the first headliners you have written “The key to beauty and acceptance is you”. This process for me personally was a difficult one. When I was 17 i was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and it has taken me 7 years to even begin to entertain the notion of accepting myself and my body for everything it is. With that said can you lend any insight as how you dealt with accepting yourself with MD. If I understand correctly you were born with MD which may differ from future clients I may encounter that are diagnosed later in life after they have already established an identity without the disease. Also how do you identify yourself with things other than your diagnosis. For many people it can be hard to not define themselves beyond their diagnosis…any advice for future clients that can aid in this process given your experience would be wonderful.
    Thanks again for your willingness and openness, your story has helped me gain a deeper insight into daily life with MD.

    1. Hi Hillary. Wow thank you so much for those extremely kind words and that extremely insightful observation. I never thought about the fact that the underlying message of my blog actually can be found in the title of that piece I wrote for Tiny Buddha. You just gave me a big light bulb moment so thanks for that!

      Accepting myself and my MD is always an ongoing process for me. There’s still plenty of days when I hate my body for not doing what I want or need to or when I ask “why me?” and have a big ol’ pity party. I can pinpoint the moment when I really started to at least work on accepting it though. I’d lost my job back in 2012 and even though that came with its own stresses, I still had a really clear head to be able to step back and take a look at myself and how I felt about my MD. I started blogging here about it (this was actually supposed to just be a travel blog!) and going to a support group and that was kind of when I decided “Ok, I need to accept myself.” One of the hardest things for me since I was young has been treating myself with compassion. I live very much inside of my head and the thoughts inside that head have been rather unkind when it comes to how I talk to myself for a long time. I say things about myself or to myself that I would never say to my best friend! So thinking about it that way actually really helped. When I start to beat myself up or have negative thoughts, I think about what I would tell my best friend instead and that’s a huge help in my turning my negative self dialogue into positive which in turn helps me be more accepting of myself. It’s kind of like riding a bike or speaking a foreign language, the more you do it, the easier it gets. As hard as it is to accept (pun intended) sometimes, this is my life. This is the way I was born and there’s nothing I can do to change it so it’s a choice everyday if I want to wallow in self pity about it or if I just want to move forward and accept I have it and make the best of it.

      I am a bit of a rarity in that I knew from a young age I had MD. Everyone who has it is essentially born with it, it just may not appear until later in life for some people. I actually consider myself lucky that I’ve never known anything else. For me at least, I think it would have been way more traumatic if I had a normal level of strength for a while and then all of a sudden started to get weaker and weaker. I’ve had a lot more time to come to terms with my MD which I’m really grateful for. It is really really hard not to identify solely with your diagnosis though. I’ve thought of myself as nothing else but the girl with the limp or the girl with MD for most of my life. I think in some ways it’s ok to identify with your diagnosis in a big way because it is part of who you are but I think it’s more important to identify with it in a positive way as weird as that might sound or as hard as that might be. I think of all the qualities I have that I like about myself I know without a doubt I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have central core. I’m resourceful, I’m empathetic, I’m sensitive, I cheer for the underdog, I’ve overcome adversity. My MD has really shaped who I am but in a good way. I’m a big believer in practicing gratitude too. Reminding yourself of all the good things you have going on outside of your diagnosis also is a big one. There’s days when that’s going to feel impossible for sure but I find it really helps me whether it be keeping a gratitude journal or just taking a minute out of day when you might be feeling down or overwhelmed by your condition and reminding yourself what you have to be thankful for.

      I know that was a novel there but thank you again for the great feedback! I’m so glad to hear I’ve helped you gain a deeper insight and hopefully I’ve given you some helpful information you can use for future clients 🙂

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