Paula Jean Ferri is familiar with sticking out. It has always come quite naturally, mostly due to the fact that she has Tourette Syndrome, which has been invaluable in shaping who she is today.
However, this is not an article about Tourette Syndrome (hereafter known as TS), it’s about what Paula has done with it. Rather than being upset or attempting to hide her TS, Paula has used them to her advantage. She has created a space around her for others to feel safe in, simply by being comfortable with herself.
People are even willing to approach her and ask questions, which she loves to answer. Paula says, “I have made so many new friends because of my TS,” which she affectionately has named Jessica. “People come up to me asking if I’m ok or I jump in and explain what is going on once I see they are confused.”
Paula has taken this mindset of self-love to a new level, applying it even to traits typically seen as negative. She cites how stubbornness in one instance can be called tenacious in another. Being stubborn isn’t a bad thing, and she even knows how to use this to her advantage. Being aware of her traits, allows her to use them as assets in any given situation.
Paula then is able to allow others to open up, giving confidence and encouragement from each interaction. Having Tourette Syndrome is not always easy, but it has made her more aware that people struggle every day. She believes everyone needs a little encouragement. We can’t always see the good things we are doing.
Our culture has trained us to look at others accomplishments and our own imperfections. We are our own worst critic. Luckily, culture is man-made. Meaning it is also fallible and we don’t have to follow the rules of social dictation. “Jessica” has made it easier for Paula to see the benefits that come from breaking the cultural norm.
While screaming in public isn’t socially acceptable, Paula simply laughs and invites others to laugh with her. Her TS may be awkward at times, but she embraces it as a strength. Her book Awkwardly Strong: From Insecure to Inspirational, published in August 2016, gives readers encouraging examples and lays out ways to see your true self and use differences as an advantage.
“On ne voit bien qu’avec le couer. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeuse.” - Le Petite Prince
“We can only see clearly with the heart. The most important is invisible to the eyes.”
By looking inward and seeing things others can’t see, we learn truths about ourselves and ways to use them. We can choose to work against ourselves, shutting out important thoughts, values, feelings, characteristics and use only half of our natural abilities, or we can allow them to work for us, using them as a catalyst for a better life.
And we choose which way we move.