Why Weird is Wonderful
I have a fondness for the word ‘weird,’ which may seem... well, weird, considering that it’s often used in a negative context. Like when my partner tells me, “You’re soooo weird,” something I hear quite often. I take it as a compliment. She does not mean it that way. We agree to disagree.
Luckily, my parents were really big on ‘being yourself’ and ‘doing what makes YOU happy’. As a result, I was always my unique, weird self as a kid. But aren’t we all up until a certain point? Growing into a bigger kid, I became aware that other people were trying to fit into the group instead of being themselves. That was an interesting discovery! I started wondering if I should be doing that too.
When I was in grade 4 I was in a friend group with all the popular girls *flips hair* We had a quintessentially bossy leader, a definite Mean Girls situation. It was fun for a while, but ultimately it made me anxious to feel like I needed to act a certain way, or to police my weirdness. So I quit.
I remember the exact moment I decided to quit. I was getting ready to go to The Girl’s birthday party. She had told us all exactly was to buy her (mine assignment was to bring a “purple Note Tote binder”), so that she didn’t get repeat presents or *gasp* something she didn’t really want. It was my first experience with a gift registry, and I’ve disliked them ever since.
I was very anxious and upset while getting ready. My Mom asked me what was wrong. I took a deep breath and immediately started bawling and trying to explain myself at the same time. My Mom was like “OMG just say you’re sick,” which was my first experience with passive aggressive lying. I stayed home and we talked about the whole situation. I decided to stop being friends with The Girl, which meant the entire group too. And I decided to keep the Note Tote for myself, as purple was also my fave colour.
Yeah, that’s right - I quit! I quit the popular girls friend group. How crazy is that? 10 year old me was like “I don’t want to be friends with you anymore. I just don’t like it.” I told HER that. The most popular girl at school. To her FACE. Her very shocked and angry face. (As a side note, I wish I had that kind of confidence now, although, to be fair, my lack of life experience also led to believe my actions wouldn’t have any consequences! Oops!)
She did NOT take the rejection well, let me tell you. The next few months was a veritable festival of bullying. This girl and her crew would chase me around the yard at recess, call me names and shout at me, and damn made sure no one else wanted anything to do with me. Because this happened in the late 80s, no one intervened on my behalf. No hashtags went viral. No Huffington Post blogger wrote about my plight.
It was really painful for a while. Going to school straight up sucked. I talked to my Mom about it a lot, since she was now my only friend (#nerdalert). She told me that I was better off without them, and that out of this crappy experience I would find new, better friends. I was pretty sure she didn’t know anything because she had never been a 10 year old girl, like me. But I knew she meant well, so I nodded and hoped she was right.
Even at the worst times, this experience helped me learn that being your own unique, weird self is always the best choice. The alternative just isn’t worth it. Even though my parents had told me this, having the direct experience really drove the point home. I’m really happy that I learned this at a young age.
In my case, since I had chosen to be ostracized, the bullying was actually quite formative and really did helped me become a better person. Obviously I had a lot of free time to be alone and reflect, so I did a lot of thinking during this period, and I learned a lot about myself. Of course that is definitely not always the outcome with bullying. In this respect, I was also lucky.
And do you know what happened after it all settled down (because even bullying someone who rejected you gets old after a while)? I got a cool new friend who was weird and funny and smart and awesome. Then I got another. And I ended up with 3 really close, awesome friends who I spent all my time with, for the rest of elementary school. It was a totally worthwhile trade: 12 fake friends for 3 really great ones.
In reflecting on this experience now, I can appreciate that I probably caused this girl a lot of hurt by rejecting her (very coveted) friendship. Maybe I caused her brain to implode. I’d love to interview her now about what that was like, but some things must remain mysteries. It’s likely that her popularity and social status was the foundation for her self-esteem and here I was just casually kicking at the supporting posts like it was no big deal. It’s too bad, because in the end she missed out on a really cool, albeit weird, friend: Me. Just joking: it’s too bad because sooner or later basing your self-esteem on anything outside yourself catches up with you. Everyone must get down with themselves, one way or another.
Sometimes, because my weird ass has been so lucky in this department, that I forget that grown up people are still struggling to embrace who their are and just be authentically out there. Not everyone has arrived at a place where they can just embrace their core weirdness and not care about what other people think of them*
People often tell me that they appreciate that I am so authentic and give others permission to do the same. Weirdly, I usually look like a deer in the headlights when they say this because I’m like, “I do that?” I never set out to send that message. How weird is that? It just happened because I was myself.
If you need any other motivation to let your weirdness show, consider how it will not only help you be happier, it helps make the world a better place, in a tiny little way, by creating some space for others do to the same.
*For the record, I do care about what people think of me. Sometimes :) I care about what my friends and family think about me, and I care about what my blog readers think of this, and other, posts (leave your comments below!).
But I can take it with a grain of salt and determine when and how I want to take in feedback, solicited or not. I LOVE Mark Manson The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k, precisely because it’s not a lesson in how to not care about anything (that’s not the solution!) - it’s all about how to decide what you care about, and throw out the rest, which I think is a great message!