We use words every day; to talk, to listen, to write, to think. Without words we can’t communicate properly. And if we use them incorrectly we risk misunderstanding others, or being misunderstood by others. During a chat with a friend this week, I realised that words make a huge difference to the way we see ourselves too: saying “I am special”, and saying “I am special in the eyes of others”, are two very different things, and taking out those 5 extra words has a huge positive impact on your world.

Firstly, if you see yourself as only special in the eyes of others, you will be constantly searching for approval from others. You’ll feel insecure as you aren’t certain of your worth, and this means you won’t always believe people when they do affirm you. “What if they’re just saying I’m special to make me happy?” you might think. Or “what if tomorrow they don’t think I’m special any more?” Your whole world has the potential to crumble beneath your feet.

Compare this to believing that you actually are special. This doesn’t mean thinking you’re flawless, or particularly amazing at a specific skill; rather, it means accepting that you are you, with your unique talents, qualities, and flaws, and that that’s great. If you believe you’re special your perception of yourself is more positive and more constant, less reliant on, or affected by, the opinions of other people. Your more stable identity will help you be a source of strength for others┬árather than depending on others to keep yourself strong. You become like Bear Grylls helping someone else to abseil down that impossibly treacherous cliff face rather than being the one needing a “Bear Grylls” figure for your survival. (Not that I’m always the Bear Grylls figure! Sometimes I’m one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both at the same time; it’s something I’m still working on too.)

Secondly, seeing yourself as special is the more accurate way to see yourself out of the two. We all have things we are good at, or qualities that make us who we are, and no two people in the history of the world has had the exact same compound of talents and characteristics as you. And these things are within us, not dependent on other people’s opinions.

David Beckham was good at football, and that’s a fact; it doesn’t change based on what people think. He was special. The late Leonard Nimoy, who played Captain Spock in Star Trek, was a great actor. That doesn’t change based on what people think. It’s a fact. He was special. This same rule applies to us normal everyday people too, like my Mum. She is strong, resilient, and caring; three qualities she has that make her the person she is and therefore that make her special. Whether others agree that she has those qualities or not doesn’t change the fact that she does. She is special, not just special in the eyes of others.

And you don’t have to be the best at something to be special. Even if you think there’s nothing you are particularly good at (which probably isn’t true), you are still unique; there’s nobody else exactly like you, so by that reason alone you’re special. If limited edition coins that are inherently flawed are worth a fortune (see dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196644/Rare-20p-coin-sells-7-100-eBay-thats-35-500-times-face-value.html) then how much more are we valuable as people who, although inherently flawed ourselves, are one-of-a-kind and alive!

Finally, seeing yourself as special is the more accurate of the two from a Christian perspective. I’ve talked before about how God gives us stable identity (see my “Identity” blog post). And I’ve mentioned in a few other posts about how Jesus died and rose again to set us free. One of the things He came to earth to set us free from was this sort of mindset; we don’t need to be slaves to it any more, we can be free and know we are loved and worth dying for. And if that wasn’t enough, God created the whole of time and space, yet values little you and little me so much that he took time and thought to shape us (Psalm 139:13-16), chose where in creation to let us be born, has protected and guided us so far in our lives, and he delights in us despite all the times we’ve messed up and let him down! (Zephaniah 3:17; Psalm 149:4) Wow! Now that shows that we’re special. If God says it, I can trust it’s true and fixed as God never lies. We’re not just special in the eyes of others; we’re special. Full stop.

I really hope and pray that anyone who reads this, but especially the friend I wrote it for, genuinely engages with what I’ve said and weighs it up for themselves. Words are important; they have the power to change a life and set you free. You are loved. You are unique. You are special.