Have You Found What Makes You Special?
Updated: Apr 24
“There’s something special about you.”
That’s what my Lyft driver (and part-time journalist) told me over the summer when I was living in Washington, D.C. We were making our way to the police station to pick up my wallet, which I had dropped while taking pictures in front of the White House. A Secret Service agent found it on his way home and contacted me of its whereabouts. Everyone in D.C. is insanely busy, so I knew I was fortunate someone took the time to turn my wallet in and personally contact me, but I didn’t think it was “special” per se. Yet, the words linger with me 7 months later.
What if you believed in words so strongly that you made them come to fruition? I could tell the man I was speaking to didn’t give out such statements lightly. He really meant what he said. So, I thought on it all summer and waited for something unbelievable to happen. Great things happened, but not unbelievable. As I walked out of my empty apartment with my bags packed for home, I thought, “Huh, guess he was wrong.” Or, maybe, I just hadn’t strung everything together yet.
As eluded to in my story, I have had a long journey from college to registered dietitian. I was studying dietetics and realized that no one else looked like me. There were no other Asian students in my major and no other students with curves. Diversify Dietetics didn’t exist and the Health At Every Size movement was still young. I stuck out like a sore thumb.
On top of that, I was waist-deep in student loans and working year-round while also becoming increasingly stressed to make myself the ideal candidate for dietetic internships. One of the reasons I switched majors to behavioral neuroscience was because it was less stressful. The coursework was just as challenging but I finally saw some students of color in my classes and no one cared about my body shape.
When I returned years later to complete a post-baccalaureate in dietetics, I finally had the support I needed to overcome those challenges. My support system helped me understand that what used to make me feel like a liability is in fact what makes me unique and valuable.
We spend so much time in school and our internship striving to be the top performer. Who can name the contraindications of enteral nutrition the fastest, who can finish their case study first, and who received the highest score on last week’s exam… in the end, we all come out with the same knowledge and skills. The only difference is that some can perform faster or perhaps more efficiently than others. So, you can imagine how that can make it difficult to stand out.
What makes YOU special?
Here are my top three tips for finding out what makes you special and how to capitalize on them:
1. Find your value. Skills are important and can be learned or improved. However, what makes someone valuable is often innate and difficult to replace. I strive for health equity and equal representation. My passion for diversity is part of what makes me valuable in my field and it pushes me to think outside the box.
2. Know that for every weakness you have, there is an environment where those become your strengths. I take on a lot of projects, both at work and in my personal life, so I over-commit. I become excited because I can see how different projects begin to fit together like a puzzle making a bigger picture come to life. You can imagine how as a student this could cause trouble, but in Washington, D.C. it was a blessing. Based on the setting, I can gauge which skillset is going to best suit my needs.
3. Become introspective. We have so many positive, neutral, and negative thoughts about ourselves each day. Take a moment and consider where these thoughts are coming from without the distractions of a comment made at work or a face given to us in passing. This was something I practiced when I was a first-time manager but lost over time when I went back to school. I received feedback so often from professors and preceptors that I stopped listening to what I thought of my performance. Whether you’re taking a break from work, are a student, or seasoned professional, introspectiveness is handy to have around.
I’m starting to understand what makes me special and I hope you are, too. For me, it was not one big event but rather a journey with a few speed bumps to where I am now and knowing that the trip continues. Take it from me there is something special about you. If you don’t believe me, then I hope you find a stranger who will tell you the same and that it resonates with you over half a year later.
"You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world and you have to do it all the time."
~ Angela Davis
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