19th August 2016
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
As long as there have been clans, culture and civilization, humans have felt to need to fit in. Not so long ago, it was a matter of survival — people had to work together and have common goals if the group was going to weather the harshness of life. While we’re still interconnected in a variety of ways, our ability to explore our independence of spirit has become more accessible with industrialization. We simply don’t need the same level of conformity as we have in the past, in order to be able to protect, feed, clothe or shelter ourselves.
All the same, this newfound freedom has also opened the door to a crisis of sorts for some — the feeling of being at odds with society and not fitting in. As it turns out, this may not be such a bad thing.
Marching to a Different Drummer
As a child, I never ran with the popular group — I always had a few very close friends and that was it. This is the same person who, at age six, used to wear red tights on her head — to mimic the long hair that was sacrificed for a short Dorthy Hamil cut. There’s a long list of other oddities growing up, but the point is that I never thought my behavior or preferences were strange until I received negative feedback from my peers (and, many times, my older sister). While I’ve been able to retain certain eccentric traits, on face value, I dress, speak and behave in a fairly ‘normal’ manner by society’s standards. It’s only been over the last decade or so that I’ve started to dig deep and live a more authentic life. One thing I’ve discovered, as have many others, is that being a misfit is actually a good thing.
Depth of thought
With an increasing materialistic orientation in Western culture, shallowness, speed and superficiality are rampant. And for those who have depth of thought, the world today can seem very foreign and harsh — to the point where they just want to hide. But when someone has depth, they also recognize (and value) what truly matters in life. These individuals often make the most remarkable friends, allies and partners.
Ability to “read” people accurately
A large portion of people who don’t fit in are highly sensitive to the emotional climate of people and environments. They can cut through the noise, right through to the heart of the matter — and this puts people off. Misfits don’t even have to say a word for the other person to feel stripped of their facade. In our culture of pride and avoidance of vulnerability, this capacity makes people uncomfortable in the extreme, where they feel compelled to head for the hills. On the flip side, it’s an exceptionally useful skill to have in a world of artifice and deceit, as it helps to protect you against emotional, psychological and physical harm.
Thinking outside the box
If you’re a misfit, there’s a good chance you think differently from the status quo. Feel lucky if you do! Some of our greatest inventors, authors, artists and philosophers have thought outside the box — it’s where true innovation is born. People cannot be truly creative if they’re constricted by what they “should” be thinking. It can be a tough road at times, going against established cultural norms, but the payoff is worth it in the long run.
Being a misfit certainly has its perks, as hard-won as they may be. But this doesn’t mean we will never have a sense of belonging, only that we don’t fit in. The distinction may appear subtle at first, but when we look closely, belonging and fitting in are worlds apart.
Self-Acceptance, Vulnerability and Finding Our Tribe
Brené Brown is a vulnerability researcher, who also studies courage, authenticity and shame. She believes there is a big difference between fitting in and a sense of belonging.
“Many us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, (Take it from me: I’m an expert fitter-inner!) But we’re not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking,” said Brown.“The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don’t have that, we shape-shift and turn into chameleons; we hustle for the worthiness we already possess.” [source]
There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about “finding your tribe” — which is exactly what Brown is encouraging. Being so authentic and true to your heart, that the right people naturally appreciate your uniqueness — and vise versa. However, it’s not an easy path. It means there will be difficult, honest conversations with friends and loved ones at times, requiring a hefty dose of courage. We will have to honor our true voice and speak up when something goes against our core knowing, instead of remaining silent and agreeable. And we will have to be vulnerable. This is a far cry from changing ourselves to whatever situation or person is at hand so that we are accepted.
Granted, traveling towards authenticity and belonging can be scary, painful and very, very raw. You can also still feel like a misfit in a broader cultural sense, even after you’ve found your tribe. Or sometimes our tribe is only one other person who truly “gets us.” There are even tribes comprised entirely of misfits! What’s important is to recognize the unique gifts every person brings to the table — including yourself — and to never compromise who you really are just to fit in.
The power of vulnerability | TEDxHouston
In this poignant, funny talk, Brené Brown shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.
- “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” Brené Brown, Avery, New York, 2012
- “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” Brené Brown, Hazelden, Minnesota, 2010
About the author:
Carolanne Wright enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness and joyful orientation for over 13 years.
Through her website Thrive-Living.net, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision. You can also follow Carolanne on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Further reading from Carolanne Wright:
- The Most Eco-Friendly Nation on the Planet is Now Carbon Negative
- Plastic Waste in the Ocean Will Outnumber Fish by 2050
- Mind Control, Subliminal Messages and the Brainwashing of America
- Monsanto Charged with Crimes Against Nature and Humanity – Set to Stand Trial in 2016
- Plastic-Eating Mushroom Discovered in the Amazon Rainforest — A Solution for Our Trash Saturated World?
- Over 100 Scientific Studies Agree: Cannabis Annihilates Cancer
- Why Every Parent Should Consider Unschooling
- First U.S. City Produces More Electricity Than It Uses — With 100% Renewable Technology
- If You Care About Animals and the Earth, Here’s Why You Need to Boycott Palm Oil Immediately
- Basic Income Guarantee: A Surprisingly Cost-Effective Method for Eliminating Poverty