Being Different Can Be A Good Thing.
The largest percentage of us grow up just trying to fit in. And for the most part, it works. Teenagers sometimes put so much emphasis on fitting in that they will do things they absolutely know are not a good idea. If left to themselves, they wouldn’t dare do some of the things they get caught doing when running with a group of other teens that they really should not even be hanging around with.
Some of us even get so good at hiding who we really are that we are able to completely fool even the people who are closest to us. They never seem to notice that we really are being different. We are always concerned about saying the right thing, wearing the latest styles, or being knowledgeable about the latest political issue.
When the truth of the matter is, I couldn’t have cared care less about any of those subjects. Society has forced us to behave in a certain manner just so we can be accepted. Because the alternative of being different is far too painful to even consider. Only a few of us really have what it takes to be able to survive by going our own way, by doing things our way. But speaking from experience I can tell you that if you do have what it takes to strike out on your own then by all means do it. But just be forewarned that it can be very emotionally painful at times.
Just trying to fit in.
All my life, until the age of 43, I had always tried to fit in. I would do and say things to try to fit in that just were not me. Trying to constantly hide things about myself in an effort to just be one of the guys made me constantly miserable and unhappy. Learning at a very early age that if I thought, spoke, and behaved in a certain way I would not be ostracized, or so I thought.
In Constant Fear
Living in constant fear of being different, and being discovered kept my true self from being seen by anyone. So, I did what I thought it took to keep from being renounced. I know they say that hindsight is always 20/20. But I was already being rejected, even as hard as I was trying to fit in. The combination of medical issues plus small stature plus trying too hard was a fatal combination. As I got older I began to realize that I had built a wall around myself. Thus leading to an even more damaging sense of isolation. This was the facade I had created in an effort to keep myself from being hurt. I’m sure you can probably imagine how well that worked. IT DIDN’T!
At one point I actually tried to fit in with the North Dallas crowd. For those of you that are unfamiliar with North Dallas, here is a hint. Not long ago it was made public that North Dallas was second only to Hollywood in the number of registered Mercedes, BMW’s, Jaguar’s, Audi’s, and Rolls Royce’s on the street. This was a crowd that I had absolutely no business trying to fit in with.
A Fish Out of Water
Quitting high school in the eleventh grade did not afford me the social background or the necessary education to fit in with this crowd. Having the Tourettes Trifecta ( Tourettes, OCD, ADHD) made me feel like the proverbial fish out of water. At one point I was actually driving a Cadillac Coupe D Ville, wearing custom-made suits and expensive shoes. Now for the pinnacle, I actually bought a floor-length Mahogany Ranch mink coat. I looked something like a fuzzy bowling ball. My personal belief is that if you are going to do something, don’t do it halfway, go all the way.
I ended up wearing it one time before I sold it. Here I was driving a Cadillac, working for Southern Fastener ( We sold screws to commercial construction sites), and wearing a mink. Combine all of this with my last name and you can imagine the jokes that I had to put up with. I eventually sold the mink, then the Cadillac, gave away the suits and shoes. I immediately bought a pickup, some jeans, and boots, and I haven’t looked back since.
Accept Where You feel comfortable.
This is where I should have been all along. You have to accept who and what you are. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve your station in life. But being honest with yourself is the most important thing you can be. Truthfully, I am much happier since I made the switch. I would not go back for any amount of money. If I had a choice, the only change I would make would be to be financially comfortable. But then again, most of us would make that change. The bottom line is whatever style you are happy with, then that’s what you should do.
Social Costs of Being Different
- Embrace your differences. While being different can be a bit hard, it’s not a bad thing. Being different is who makes you who you are. It means you’re daring to live your own life, on your terms, with your values. It means you have the courage to stand out from the mainstream. It means you’re interesting. Hug those differences, be grateful for them, own them. Be proud of them.
- See the teaching opportunity. Part of why I live my life differently is to be an example, to show that there are alternatives, that we don’t have to be consumerists or buy into the system or support factory farming or be unhealthy or give our responsibility to educate our kids away (for example). And so when people have questions, as tiring as they can be, actually I am grateful for the opportunity to educate, to share, to explore interesting ground with people. I actually love talking about unschooling, for example, and while I know people have objections, I had those objections too once, and I have explored answers to them that I’d love to share. It can be tiring, but it can also be a wonderful thing that someone else is curious. Curiosity is a gift.
- Find company in yourself. You can be at a party, in the middle of a crowd of people who don’t connect with you and be perfectly OK. It’s not necessarily lonely if you like your own company. But you also don’t have to be isolated — see the next item.
- Be curious. If you’re isolated at a party, there are ways to beat this. For example, don’t think just because people are different than you that you don’t have things in common. Be curious about them, and instead of thinking, “They don’t understand”, realize that maybe you don’t understand. Get to know them, see the beauty in them, find things that you love, understand why they live the way they do. Listen. Look.
- Find friends who understand. The above notwithstanding, there are people who will embrace your differences, even think you’re awesome because of them. They might also be vegan (for example), or they might just be very individualistic people who think your radical-ness is cool. You share stories about your lives, find them fascinating, want to hang out. And in this exploration, you meet some fascinating open-minded people you can connect with.
- The nay-sayers drift. While I love my family and old friends who don’t understand my differences, if they constantly attack and get angry and talk behind my back, I probably won’t want to hang out with them as much. They tend to drift out of my life because they don’t really want to engage in an open discussion, and that makes it hard to have a relationship.
- Turn your different-ness into an advantage. While there might be costs to being different, actually there are huge benefits too. Being different means you stand out, which is a good thing in a world where everyone is trying to blend in. It means you’re interesting because you’re different. It means you are less restricted by what’s comfortable, able to explore new ground, not afraid of things because you don’t know about them. It means you’re learning more than most people. These are huge advantages if you use them to build a business, make friends, and live the life you want to live.
I’m not going to pretend that being different is easy. But it is the only way I would live.