Why can’t you just learn to fit in? Life would be so much easier that way.
As long as I can remember, all I’ve wanted was to fit in. I just wanted to be “normal”.
When I was five, I came home from school upset with my mom because I didn’t bring lunchables or buy taco bell at school like the other kids. Instead, I took a re-usable lunchbox (well into middle school) full of things like pb&j made with all natural peanut butter and sprouted wheat bread, chopped veggies, nori snacks, or fresh fruit. Let’s remember this was 1999 and seaweed snacks were not on the shelves of most grocery stores, nor did most kids know what that weird, crunchy green stuff was. I didn’t get to eat sugary cereal, “fruit” by the foot, and I most definitely didn’t get to have lunchables, and I was not happy about it.
My mom’s response to my complaint still cracks me up to this day because I can only imagine how dissatisfied I would have been with it at age 5, wanting to be normal.
“We are not a normal family… so you better get used to it!”
Well, we still aren’t a normal family. And as normal as I may look from the outside, I definitely don’t fit into an easy-to-define “box” by any means.
I’m into fitness and health. I love to paint, and read, and cook. I also like to drink beer and watch basketball. Beautiful things make me happy. But so does traveling with nothing but a camera and a backpack. I want to explore, and yet I’m a homebody by nature. I’m intuitive, creative, and analytical all at once.
I’m a little bit of everything. I don’t fit into one box- I check them all. I know I sound like I’m really tootin’ my own horn here, but bear with me…
It makes it easy to get along with just about anyone and yet it also separates me from almost everyone. Because I don’t fit into just one box, it can make it hard for people to really see me for the fullness of who I am. It can make it hard for them to relate to or truly understand me. Not part of me, ALL of me. I can connect with many people on one common interest, but connect deeply across the board with very few people.
I think it’s only gotten more difficult as I’ve gotten older. We start conversations now with, “What do you do for work?” and our answers determine a box to check. You should see some of the faces I get when I say I work in social media. Let’s just say that they aren’t always judgment-free.
What if instead we started asking, “What do you do that makes you happy?” or “What is it you love to spend time doing?” Think about how much more you find out about a person asking one of those questions. Think about how many more boxes you invite them to check, how much more of themselves you invite them to share.
The good news is we are living in the golden age of self-expression. More now than ever, people have a platform to share themselves with the world, if they so choose. The difficult thing is finding the bravery to do so, because we are also living in the golden age of internet trolls, who find just about any flaw they can and pick it apart. But I’m here to say F*CK that because chances are, you’ve got something great to share with the world. Don’t let a few trolls stand in your way. I’m as guilty of that as any of us, and I’m done letting that fear keep me from sharing myself with all of you. I’m 25 for crying out loud, if you don’t like me by now, I’m tough enough to be okay with that.
Coming to terms with accepting your own uniqueness and turning that into a sense of self-love is difficult to say the least. It certainly isn’t easier than being “normal”. But the beauty in embracing your weirdness is that you invite others to do the same. By embracing your true self, you invite them to embrace their own. Think about how many people know you for who you really truly are. Now think about how many people you interact with on a daily basis that really have no clue who you are at your core. Which set of relationships is stronger? Which set is deeper? Which set will stand the test of time?
Listen, I know from personal experience it’s not easy exposing your most vulnerable self to the general public. I’m not saying you have to leave yourself completely open and vulnerable 100% of the time. There is something to be said for protecting yourself from uncomfortable situations. But do I think we should try and get closer to that 100%? Yes. Absolutely. Something as simple as one honest, open conversation can change everything. Letting someone see your true self will only affirm what you already know- you are amazing, you are smart, you are important- share it with the world! We will all benefit from your truth.
Moral of the story is, none of us are “normal”, because really, what is normal if not an average of all the human qualities? And seriously- do you want to be average? I didn’t think so.