I’ve been sick all day which has given me a lot of time to do nothing but watch movies, suck on 27 cough drops and lay around thinking about life. Today, I was prepared to write a long post about self-awareness, but instead I want to write about an idea that has been haunting my thoughts for a few weeks now: being weird.
Like everyone else, I grew up in a culture from which I learned valuative norms, that is, which things are good or bad, right or wrong, weird or normal. As a child I saw my friends strive to fit within these norms, as did I, in order to avoid conflict and receive love and acceptance from parents and other authority figures.
On some level I thought fitting in would make me happy even though it oftentimes meant squashing my true nature–my creativity, intuition, ambitions, etc. Many of my friends were much better at squashing than I was, and I often felt like a Weirdo.
Being Weird is Hard
As I grew older I held ideas about the path my adult life was “supposed to” take mostly, again, formed by cultural norms. I saw people around me achieving normative “successes” in a very prescribed way: first get a job, then get married and then produce X # of children, all by the age of Y. I saw these people as Normal and Good and often wondered why I couldn’t do the same.
Well, I could do the same. But only for short stretches at a time. Then depression would kick in, I would feel crazy, and in search for answers to my pain, the numbness hiding my deeper dreams and ambitions would fade. I would feel better again without knowing why, and return to pursuing the prescribed path.
This became a cycle of trying to reconcile two strong and conflicting messages. One said “Go do XYZ! Everyone else is happy with that, why can’t you be?” while the other said “You’ve always wanted to be a painter, dancer, writer, _____. Just get started! Pursue it!! You’ll figure out the rest”. I had a hard time finding others who could relate to this, and I often felt isolated and alone.
Eventually I met another Weirdo and fell in love with him. His Weirdness felt like a protective shield that saved me from all the ways I didn’t fit in with the rest of the world. We created our own culture and I hid from the people I thought found my Weirdness threatening or distasteful. Eventually, within this new, smaller culture I did the same thing again. I squashed my true nature so as to get love and acceptance from the Weirdo I loved. The day I realized this was the day our relationship began its slow dissolution.
Embracing Your Weirdness is Courageous
I’ve learned that dimming your awareness in order to fit in is a way of lying to yourself. The truth is that n0body fits in. We’re all at least a little bit weird, but lots of people will try very hard to convince you that’s not true.
Courage is choosing to take action in the presence of or in spite of fear.
Throughout our lives we have opportunities to either succumb to fear and take the safe but uninspired path or allow the fear to simply exist and follow our heart’s deeper desires anyway. Fear never goes away. It only shrinks or expands in proportion to how much we coddle it. In the end, our life becomes the sum of our reactions to fear.
What if what you think is weird or scary, really isn’t that weird or scary? What if taking the chance to do the thing you really want to do is much safer than you realize? What if all along you’ve been limiting yourself for no good reason?