Why You Are Not Special – And Why That’s a Good Thing

Beauty queens

I confess that I love—and own—the movie “Fight Club.” I know that seems an odd choice for a middle-aged woman, but the movie speaks a partial truth that needs to be heard. My favorite line from the film is, “You are not a beautiful, unique snowflake.” I originally liked it because of the context in which it was spoken, an angry and disillusioned voice speaking to a group of other disaffected people who had opted out of the easy lies of society. But now I like it because I understand better why humans want so badly to be special.

We see it everywhere. Contestants on reality shows vying for fame. Regular folks posting endless selfies across social sites. Children running home to show their parents the A’s on their report cards. Toddlers in beauty pageants.

These are the obvious examples, the ones that are easy to deride and dismiss in others. But each of us tries to be and feel special all day long in a thousand subtle ways. Finding that unique item of clothing that no one else has. Listening to an obscure foreign band that you discovered on your own. Following the rules better than anyone else. Being the smartest/strongest/kindest/____est person in the room.

We want to matter. We want to count. To matter, we believe that something about us must be superlative. I’m not just talking about the highly visible star types. Every superego has convinced every person that there is inherently something wrong and something missing, and the way to fix it is to follow closely what the superego commands. For some Types, this does mean becoming a star in their particular environment (best actor, best baker, best parent…). For others, it means quietly being the most right or the most peaceful or most knowledgeable and so on.

Riso and Hudson preface the superego message for each Type this way: “You are good or okay if…” followed by that Type’s particular message. So, for example, for a Six, the superego message would go, “You are good or okay if you do what is expected of you.” But I would take it further than just feeling good or okay. Every time the superego makes a judgment, about you or about someone else, what it’s really doing is saying, “This is how to be worthy of love.”

I think that’s actually what Riso and Hudson mean by “You are good.” Because the superego knows nothing of grace; it is all about the Law. Its if/then statements are all performance-based. I think of the Apostle Paul trying to help the early Church get free of some bad teaching that was dragging them back into performance-based religion: “Oh foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” My answer: the superego.

In the specific case of the Galatians, it was the superegos of folks who meant well but couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of salvation as a free gift. In the general case of all humanity, our superegos can’t grasp the idea that we are already whole, beloved, acceptable to God through Jesus. So they require us to work hard so that we can be special.

How wonderful that God does not grade on a curve! We all get Jesus’ A+. We do not need to be special, because we are seen by God and he utterly loves us. No best-ness, no performance needed. However you may feel about the novel “The Shack,” what I loved was that God repeatedly said of this or that person who came up in conversation with the main character, “I especially like her/him.” Meaning, of course, that God especially likes every precious human he has made.

We know this intellectually, but it takes a tremendous amount of inner work to not believe the superego anymore. It’s a very primal set of lies it espouses, and we have believed it for a long time. So, mere mental assent will not suffice to silence it. Here’s a way to start that process:

  1. Carry around a small notebook with you. Or use the Notes function of your smart phone.
  2. EVERY time you hear a judgment in your head, either positive or negative, about yourself or anyone else, write it down.
  3. Look back at these judgments every evening (I told you this was work!). Notice what categories of things your superego pays attention to. See the patterns.
  4. Realize that these judgments, though there may be a kernel of truth in them, are based on lies and, most importantly, that they are NOT you. You are not your personality.

If you will follow this process, you will begin to dissociate from the superego. You will not be as easily led astray. You will experience less judgment, and more peace.

You are not special. Instead, you are precious to the God who made you. You don’t need to be special to get his attention. You already have it, completely. Isn’t that a good thing?

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