“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Who defines what’s reasonable for whom? Personally and professionally I know the importance of being true to oneself, yet our society continues to maintain what appears to be a double standard. People believe that they encourage individuals to be themselves and to follow their own path, yet they are simultaneously saying the following: I want you to look and act like this… Sit still… Try harder… Be like me.
I work with a number of individuals with the characteristics of attention deficit disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and autism. I focus on the gifts of these individuals and don’t perceive them as having disabilities – I continually strive to help others to see the gifts that these individuals have including:
- Global thinkers
- Empathy (even those who appear to distance themselves)
- Environmental consciousness
- Entrepreneurs and inventors
- Unique problem solvers
Yet I am aware that many professionals and parents are reluctant to fully embrace these individuals’ differences. Their behavior is described as quirky (or worse) and attempts are made to eliminate it. We have the tendency to believe that what is familiar to us should be the standard of normal, considered correct and the only thing worthy of acceptance.
Self-acceptance is crucial to happiness, success, and promotion of the expression of one’s gifts. Yet when others continually correct another’s behaviors, personality and style, it is difficult to feel accepted and valued by others – or by the self.
The issue that I still contemplate is: How can each person maintain their originality and still fit in? People with Asperger’s, attention deficit disorder and dyslexia can sometimes be such outliers that they struggle to achieve academic and financial success and independence. Is it our responsibility to adjust academic and professional environments to facilitate their success? Must the individuals become different? Or can we find a hybrid solution where we encourage and teach those with differences to interact in such a way that they can more easily assimilate into “our” world, while we simultaneously change our existing systems. And if we do participate in the latter, does it mean that we are still not fully honoring their different-ness?
Our world is changing and we need individuals who see the world uniquely and interact with it differently. Being different and being able to think out of the box is important and gives rise to entrepreneurs and inventors. People with ADHD, dyslexia and Asperger’s often have the creative skills and unusual perspectives that lead to success. Though they may require sensible managers to keep them grounded and handle the details of life, I’ve heard that no serious organization can hope to prosper without its share of square pegs.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers: The Story of Success”, and Daniel Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”, describe how those with unique qualities are the ones who tend to be the leaders in our industries. They are the designers of what is needed and the trailblazers for where we are going. This is not to infer that all successful people have ADHD, dyslexia or Asperger’s or that having one of these “disorders” is required to be successful. But it is time that we stop looking down on those who are different than us as well as those with ADHD, dyslexia or Asperger’s.
Visionaries write about the evolutionary changes that our society is experiencing and Daniel Pink calls this the Conceptual Age. It’s possible that the people with these unique qualities are evolving to bring us peace and the healing of our planet. If we take away their distinctive traits and require them to be like us, would they lose the very aspects that are essential at this time? It’s time to look at the situation differently and consider a new approach.
Do you feel like a square peg in a world of round holes? Do you force yourself to fit in? Do you run from the holes and disengage? Being authentic is essential for success. It is such a necessity for living a life of meaning that I will write more about authenticity this fall. It’s not too late. Embrace the differences that are YOU!
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.