[The following post was partly inspired by two books I’ve recently been reading, both of which surprised me in the best way possible. I can recommend them to women and parents of girls in particular, and to everyone else:
– More Myself by Alicia Keys (contains valuable insight for women especially)
– Untamed by Glennon Doyle (this one’s interesting for everyone, especially parents).]
Yesterday, I was all riled up. On fire. Suddenly feeling the world’s injustice in my core, in every fibre of my being. I was angry and sad and frustrated and feeling small and insignificant and powerless. This is what it’s like being a sensitive person – sometimes it feels like you’re responsible for carrying the burden of the world on your shoulders, all by yourself. Feeling powerless in the face of an actual or perceived injustice, be it in my personal life or anywhere else in the world, is what breaks me regularly.
Fuelled by the stress of having to physically go back to work (almost) full-time this week and the ever-looming awareness of the meaninglessness of my day-to-day professional activity, paired with not knowing where to go from there and a deeply rooted sense / fear of not being skilled enough for literally anything else, I crumbled. I broke down in tears and melted into the chair I was sitting on, collapsing under the load of the world’s worries and my own and feeling as helpless as ever. I let despair wash over me and swallow me whole for a solid ten minutes before anger kicked in.
I was suddenly mad at the world for having taught me how I was meant to turn out, how I should live my life and what I was and wasn’t supposed to feel in the process. I was mad at my family for encouraging me to pursue a safe university education and to aim for a secure career, at the expense of my dreams. If you repeatedly tell a kid to stop dreaming and to just accept the “reality” (quotation marks because it’s a subjective reality) of life in all its depressing glory, you can be sure that they’re going to end up believing you and worse, start moulding their life to match the one you’re modelling for them, even though you’re unhappy with your own life.
Most of all, I was mad at myself for not knowing better and for letting the world shape me into something I was never meant to be.
I’m aware that a lot of people never reach this moment in their lives and instead suffocate their unpleasant feelings underneath a I have no objective reason to be unhappy and should therefore be grateful blanket. I’m also aware that reaching the point of this isn’t what I want my life to be leaves me with the monstrous task of unlearning thirty-one years’ worth of conditioning and feeling unsure about what I actually want.
Now, imagine a world in which everyone could just be whomever they want to be, free of people’s judgment, mocking or bullying! Imagine parents having no other expectations of their children except wanting them to be their most authentic selves, whichever path they’ll end up choosing.
Imagine a world that doesn’t try to mould people in such a way that they fit the universal blueprint of how a person’s supposed to be.
I grew up in a community that silences those that are too loud, shames the ones that are too quiet and mocks those whose appearances and opinions differ from the norm. I was bullied for being too quiet, too small, too skinny, too nerdy, too good at school, too weird, and I know of many others who had to endure much worse. I have struggled with the feeling of not fitting in, believing there was something wrong with me because I was having a hard time with situations that seemed to come naturally to others. I kept being told how to act in order to fit in and be more likeable and pleasant and to just suck it up and deal with whatever it was that caused me trouble.
What if we stepped away from this need to define what’s normal and what isn’t? What if we stopped thinking in boxes and refrained from putting people into those boxes? Why do we feel the need to grasp a person in their entirety and put them into a box, thus limiting our understanding of them as a human being? Why can’t we accept that people are fluctuating and evolving and growing and therefore innately too complex, too big even, to fit into any of those boxes? Why do we feel the need to put labels on people? When we put a label on someone, we put them into a box and we nip curiosity in the bud, preventing ourselves from really getting to know them because they’re already in a box.
Remember all the “weird” people you came across throughout your life? The odd ones out, the outcasts, the ones that didn’t seem to mind not fitting in, who were doing their own thing regardless of what the world thought of that?
The way I see it now, they really were the brave ones. They were more courageous than the rest of us by being who they wanted to be instead of who society expected (demanded even!) them to be.
Maybe it’s time to normalise weird, or to de-normalise the normal. What is normal anyway? When there is no norm, can there be such a thing as normal? How about normalising the de-normalised? I’m aware that by the same logic, it wouldn’t be quite politically correct to continue using the word weird.
However, I’m not ready to give that one up – for me, the word has acquired a complimentary meaning over the years. While being called weird was the highest of insults (okay, maybe not quite the highest) in my childhood and teenage and even young adulthood years, I now consider it a compliment. In fact, whenever someone tells me I’m weird, I can’t help but smile. I usually even thank them for the compliment. I mean, what bigger praise is there than being told that you failed to conform to the standards society has been trying so hard to force on you all these years?
Let’s normalise weird / de-normalise the normal / normalise the de-normalised!
At the risk of sounding like a walking cliché, I’ll end this post with a call to action that deeply matters to me:
Let’s make this world a better place!
Let’s be real, unapologetically authentic, weird, “uncool”, exactly the way we want to be. Let’s be role models for our communities, friends, families and the children in our lives 💪.