There was a specific moment in elementary school when I knew beyond a doubt that I was…let’s call it “quirky.” I was really into the ’90s cartoon series Gargoyles and so I had saved whatever money I could scrounge together from various chores to buy a few sheets of Gargoyle stickers to secretly decorate the inside of my desk at school.
Now, that’s not necessarily weird in and of itself, of course, but around that same time I was also obsessed with a strange little book I found called Earth Magik, which claimed it could teach readers how to do things like “ward off evil” and “attract your soul mate” using things like string and herbs. Pretty harmless, silly, stuff, but, as it turns out, not to our school counselor.
Somehow, she found out about the strange grotto inside of my desk, full of cartoon monsters and books about magic, and called me into her office to stage something like an intervention. I remember sensing right off the bat that I made her uncomfortable and that she herself wasn’t quite sure why she had called me into her office. So I put my foot down. I told her that I liked weird cartoons and books about magic. And, since I didn’t break any rules and since neither gargoyles or magic are real, I wasn’t going to apologize for it. In other words, I made the choice to embrace my inner weirdo.
There’s really no such thing as normal
This is something very important that I learned early on: There is no such thing as “normal.” We’re all living on this grand scale of weirdness that doesn’t necessarily go from more to less weird, but just moves around between different types of quirkiness and individuality. It’s what makes us interesting. And it’s what makes us who we are.
Your inner weirdo — and, if that’s too strong a word, let’s try “nerd,” “oddball,” or “misfit” — isn’t just some counterproductive or alienating aspect of your personality, dragging you down and keeping you from accomplishing your goals. Instead, you might think of it as quite simply the most unique and interesting thing about you. Embrace it. It’s your contribution to the world, and to hide it away or suppress it is to deprive the world of idiosyncratic beauty.
What’s eccentric changes the norms
Now, it might be true that you do occasionally have to force your behavior to conform to certain norms in order to accomplish things — especially group projects. But it’s also important to never lose sight of the fact that it’s often the most unique parts of people’s perspectives that change the norms.
This is probably most obvious in art, where modes and trends are revolutionized based on the genius of the individual. All the great artists were great because they embraced their inner misfit. Just imagine Picasso thinking his entire life that he was failure because he couldn’t quite paint Impressionist images aswell as Degas.
The case for being yourself
This leads us to another important reason to accept and embrace your fundamental quirkiness: It’s painful not to. Sure, the world could use your unique vision, but freely being your complete self is really the only way to be happy. It’s the only way to find the places where you’re most comfortable and the people who get you the best.
You might also be surprised by how people respond to your embrace of your quirkiness. In my own case, word got around my school that I had stood up for myself and accused a somewhat intimidating and unpopular guidance counselor of believing in magic. People actually want you to stand up for yourself and all your idiosyncrasies because you’re simultaneously standing up for them and their weirdness. Everyone feels more free to be themselves, and they’ll appreciate you for it. In my case, I was elected class president that year. My campaign motto: Be Yourself.
Scott Beauchamp is a writer who lives in Maine. His work has previously appeared in The Guardian, Bookforum, Dublin Review of Books, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter here.