I was always the weird girl. From early childhood I felt like an outsider. I was a dreamy, bookish kid who grew into a shy, awkward adolescent. I was picked on a great deal in elementary school and middle school, and thus developed an intense sense of inadequacy and loneliness, which stayed with me well into my twenties. For a long time I believed there was something fundamentally wrong with me that made others dislike me, so I spent a great deal of my youth suppressing what I perceived to be my weirdness. For a long time I went through life with this filter installed in my head that dictated what I did and did not say or do. It stopped me from being too outspoken, from expressing my true desires and interests or speaking out against something I disagreed with. I was so desperately afraid of being judged, of being ostracized and alone again, that I would convince myself that my ideas and ambitions were stupid, that my passions and hobbies were pathetic and pointless. I would lie awake at night, going over and over in my head every stupid thing I had said during the day, every tiny detail of myself that didn’t measure up or fit in was ruthlessly picked apart by my brain, until I hated myself as much as I feared the rest of the world did.
Needless to say, this sort of behavior and thought patterns were exceptionally detrimental to my well being. By my teen years, I had constructed a very elaborate shell around myself, an image I projected to the world of what I believed was socially acceptable. I quit drawing, writing, singing, acting, reading anything besides the fashion magazines, which only served to shore up my insecurities with impossible imagery of “perfect” female forms to compare myself to. I smothered the playful, curious and creative side of myself in favor of what I believed were qualities people wanted to be friends with. I used alcohol as a crutch, “Social Lubrication” I would joke as I slammed shots. It was the only way I knew how to let go and be myself. No act, no facade, no stilted and self-conscious conversation.
It is only recently that I’ve begun to accept myself, to embrace my weirdness and my innate sense of strange, but the mask has been in place for so long I’m having a hard time finding the seams. It reminds me a little of this Goosebumps episode I watched as a kid, where this Halloween mask takes over this kid and he can’t get it off. My mask of “normal” has sealed to my skin. So many years spent hiding behind it and it’s become a part of me, something I can’t remove at will any more. I worry sometimes that that mask has suffocated my Weird Girl. That by neglecting her for so long, I let her die, alone in the dark behind the walls I started building when I was still just a kid.
She’s not dead, but she’s weak. She’s been there the whole time, peering out from behind the mask, waiting for the moment I realize how silly it all is, this game of charades I’ve been playing. Trying to be something other than what I am. But I’m realizing that she’s still there, buried under insecurities and anxiety, to be sure, but still alive. I can see her in my sense of humor, my playfulness and desire to constantly explore the world. She’s alive in my love of music and art and words and in my desire to connect with people on these topics. She is the part of me that reads too many political and feminist blogs and who mourns for the world with every piece of bad news. She is also the part of me that watches adorable cat videos and random acts of kindness and feels with great conviction that the human race is worth saving, that we are capable of wonderful and beautiful things.
I suppose the point I’m getting at is that you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of the parts of you that don’t fit neatly into a box. People want to parse you up into pieces that are easily digestible and convenient, but human beings are neither of those things. We are strange emotional, mercurial creatures, capable of both incredible beauty and horror. We are complex and contradictory and it is only through this convolution that we are capable of creating, of evolving, of becoming more as a species.
I’m still learning to embrace my Weird, to not be ashamed or embarrassed by my eccentricities or idiosyncrasies. To stop apologizing before I articulate an idea or thought, to express myself creatively without being concerned what others will think. To allow myself and others the opportunity to really get to know me, without judgment or inhibition. To recognize my value in and perspective on the world as an individual, flaws and all. Learning to stop comparing and contrasting myself to my peers and even strangers is unhealthy, unproductive and downright insane. It accomplishes nothing besides making me feel horrible about myself, so why do it?
So, I guess what I’m getting at is let your freak flag fly, dudes. It’s the weird ones who have always made a difference, the ones everybody laughed at in kindergarten or didn’t get picked in kickball. It’s the people who have stood outside the circles and seen the way they shift who have really made an impact on the world. Sometimes, all it takes is a different perspective, and if everyone were the same–normalized to the point of being indistinguishable from each other–there would be no innovation or creativity or change. And imagine where that would leave us. Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone looked and thought and acted the same.