It’s probably no surprise to you – but I aint no stereotypical pastor’s wife.

I’ve never arranged a flower in my life. I get palpitations when people cry about stuff. I am not even any good at refreshments – I have no idea why in the world people need to give lengthy instructions as to their tea-drinking needs. What is the deal with ‘strong but with lots of milk’ or ‘weak and black and decaf if possible’? It’s just tea folks – it’s not a steak for goodness sake and do I look like Starbucks? Nope. For large meetings at our house I leave out a tray of teas and instant coffee (get over it), the kettle and cups and release people to fill their own cup in their own sweet picky way so I can get on with what I do best  – talking.

Not exactly the pearl-wearing, hospitality-loving pastors wife then.

The trouble with the mental short-cut of stereotypes is that we subconsciously look for them to be reinforced. So when we experience a person on television, in advertising or in real life who cuts across those expectations, it makes us stop in our tracks a little:

 A woman who chooses to run for president instead of retiring and playing with her grandkids.

 A man who chooses a career working with pre-school children.

 A young girl who wants to play building, fixing and doing puzzles, leaving her dolls untouched.

Our upbringing and our culture including the media are powerful pigeon-hole creators. If I am brought up believing that all Tory voters are uncaring rich people, that stay-at-home mums are lazy, that working mums are neglectful, that immigrants take our jobs, that pretty girls get by on their looks alone or that all men care about is power and sex then these stereotypes will undoubtedly shape my expectations.

But it’s not just how we see others. The messages we receive impact how we see ourselves too.

So here’s the thing we all need to know:

Even if it means you disappoint others, even if it cuts across their pre-conceived ideas – you are more than the expectations other people have of you. You are a totally unique masterpiece and something powerful happens when you purposefully lean into being you.

Perhaps the joy of getting older is growing in awareness (and acceptance) of the unique gifts, talents, personality, weaknesses, passions, areas of influence and potential that only we will ever have.

Once we move beyond stereotypes and expectations into a deliberate decision to embrace the unique place in the world that we have been given, the web of relationships we uniquely exist in and the unique potential God has given us, then we will flourish far more fully.

So, let’s challenge those stereotypes.

Let’s give up comparing ourselves with others.

Let’s move beyond the expectations and limitations that others or we might place around us.

Instead, you and I can intentionally embrace the fact that we are each a bespoke, never-to-be-repeated one-off designed by God who can, in turn, create new and better expectations for those around us as we model something different.

And if it stops people in their tracks as you rock the world with your own unique style – so be it!

I explore being ‘Unique’ in more depth in Chapter 2 of Digging for Diamonds.

Here are some questions from the book – it would be great to have a conversation on this subject – please do feed back.

  • Have you ever felt constricted by stereotyping or the expectations of others?
  • How can you help yourself and others break through those limitations?
  •  What would you say you are born to do? Where do you feel most alive or fulfilled?