What exactly is a “niche“, you ask?
It’s defined as a “comfortable or suitable position in life or employment” or as a “product or service that appeals to a small, specialized section of the population.“
It’s the thing that all search engines, marketers, and advice-givers want you to define for yourself because, without having made this decision, you’re doing it wrong.
Trust me, I get it. Categorization is convenient. Sometimes, downright lucrative and necessary.
We love to know what to expect from people, places, and things. Give us a familiar noun any day of the week so that we can place that bad boy comfortably into a suitable little pocket.
The only problem with niches is that I don’t think most people inherently exist in just one of them. We’re too complex at the core.
Sure…we can appeal to certain types of people, love certain things, or be proficient in certain skills. That’s where we discover our gifts. But, when we decide to confine ourselves to a niche, we run the solid risk of feeling controlled by it. Maybe even allowing it to select our next move or how we communicate with others, rather than doing what feels most natural in the moment.
Businesses definitely have niches, but should people have them?
It’s as if someone is saying:
“You’re just this. Please only be this because that’s where I like you. I like that I know exactly what you are.”
That’s all gravy until you, as the niche-sitter, starts to feel pressure to live up to that expectation at every juncture whilst also being an evolving human being.
Every marketer in the world is like, “Yes, you weirdo. You need one. Now, get to posting something that appeals to women between 18-30.” I hear ya, but allow me the thought exploration, All-Knowing-Business-Minded-Folk.
Think of the musicians that do an album people love only to flip a 180 for the follow-up because they wanted to creatively explore a new genre. Think of the comedic actors that strive to achieve respect in dramatic roles. People don’t like to be pigeon-holed.
Think of people that project over-confidence all day that then go home to nurse their hidden insecurities. People are difficult to accurately pigeon-hole.
If we allow people to place us in the wrong niche…we might tap into a little reservoir of low-key internal suffering. Maybe high-key depending on our sensitivity levels.
When we place ourselves in a niche, we might find blissful comfort, purpose, and focus. We might find restriction and stunted growth, if we don’t continue to assess if that’s the thing that still resonates with us.
Through writing this, the word “niche” has lost all meaning. You know what I mean, right? Say “niche” 10 times out loud right now.
Niche, niche, niche, niche, niche, niche, niche, niche, niche, niche…
Now, it’s just a sound your mouth makes.
For whatever reason, my brain doesn’t prefer to think of things in a niche framework. I’m sure I definitely exist in one, probably even require one, but I resist processing things that way because it makes the whole creative thing feel sterile.
So, perhaps, we re-package the idea.
Maybe the key is to be aware and accepting of your niche, but not conclusively defined by it.
Maybe we call the “niche” a “sweet spot” instead and let ourselves relish in many “sweet spots” as we explore new possibilities. Maybe I’m wrong and the world will demand that you find one.
The only inherent concern is that if we focus too much on fitting into just one category, we open ourselves to the possibility of forgetting how much we have in common and restricting our own evolution, creative and otherwise.
People are like tiramisu…or onions. We’ve got layers. I prefer the tiramisu analogy, but (let’s face it) not every one of our layers is so sweet.
So, get out there and find your sweet spots and appreciate your layers.
It’s the only way we’ll be able to tell you’re human when the AI takes over.