Weird, weirdo, strange, unusual, abnormal, not normal, odd, freaky, eccentric, all words I’ve been called over the years. But why? Why have we (society) corrupted the words weird and inserted negative meanings into them? I don’t know about anyone else but I wasn’t party to the memo telling me the ‘Normal Police’ had been legislated and were arresting anyone who showed even a hint of stepping over the accepted line. I know humans are conformists, but really?
Conformity as described by simply psychology is:
‘Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. This change is in response to real (involving the physical presence of others) or imagined (involving the pressure of social norms / expectations) group pressure.’
I’ve tried conformity, didn’t like it. Tasted funny, a mix of bitter sourness, self depreciation and depression. Conformity is dangerous. Humans are wired to want to fit. To belong, and that means we absent mindedly accept the presumed authority of those that present themselves as authoritative. Ever heard of the Stanely Milgram experiment? He made himself look authoritative by wearing a scientific lab coat, and used particular commanding phrases like:
- Please continue.
- The experiment requires that you continue.
- It is absolutely essential that you continue.
- You have no other choice, you must go on.
Which forced experimentees to continue to give electric shocks to people who got answers to questions wrong – even when the shock levels read XXX. In the first set of experiments 65% continued to shock all the way to 450 volts (the XXX button). Milligram himself summarised his experiment as ‘The Perils of Obedience’.
Just think about that – because we would rather submit ourselves to the judgement of a presumed authority we would give someone electric shocks to the point of death. If we would do that then it’s not even remotely surprising we have conditioned society to view ‘weird’ as bad. There are other psychological experiments showing similar results – Asch’s line experiment where a group of participants were primed to give wrong answers about the length of lines, and the one participant who was blind to their reasons for giving wrong answers would give the same wrong answer as the rest of them – instead of giving the answer they knew to be right. We have conformity wired into our genes. Any kind of social upheaval is seen as negative. But why?
Groups make us stupid. They make us think one thing.They make those who could speak up, those who think differently shy away from voicing their opinions because they will be in the minority. Groups sap all our creativity, morph us into sheep, a group consciousness all thinking the same ‘wrong’ boring shit.
Personally I think weird is the new black. But going again something hard wired in our genes is extraordinarily difficult. It’s like wading through sludge. People (kids, teens and adults alike) get bullied for being different, being the one with their hand up in class ready to ask another question, for thinking outside the box or standing up and saying ‘I will’. But without those people, we wouldn’t have progression. Society wouldn’t grow. It makes me wonder though, if – when we are constrained to such an extent that only the exceptional few like Galileo, Da Vinci, and Einstein are able to break away from the norm, except their inner weird and use it to change the way we all think, then what would happen if we could all accept our inner weird?
What would happen if one day we all woke up and lived in a world where there was no weird, because we were all different?
Oh. Wait. We are all different. So why are we not allowed to embrace it?
I’ve heard people say that life gets better once you get to your thirties, I’ve heard people say every decade gets better. I’m starting to wonder if some of that ‘betterness’ isn’t actually about acceptance? I’ve had more existential life crisis than my 28 young years should have allowed. But it is what it is. Most of them have been about my inability to accept who I am. I have been trained to think I am weird or wrong because I think differently, speak differently even look different.
Teenage years are the worst, because you become cognisant of the fact that there is an acceptable norm, and then you spend that decade trying to work out what your position is in it. When you realise you don’t fit, you spend much of those years racing through fads, crazes and styles trying to establish which one fits so you know your place in society. In your twenties the fads slow to just one or two interests with life getting in the way of most of it. The life crises cease because you find a groove and a set of friends that accept you. Sometimes friends drift, and you have a period of readjustment trying to find another square hole for your square self to fit in.
But I hear that as you get older you stop giving a shit. Square pegs, round holes, fads, groups, fashions… none of it matter anymore. Why? because you know you can go get a saw and a piece of sandpaper and carve the sodding hole yourself.
The thing is, we are all a bit weird. There’s a bit of strange inside all of us, and the quicker we accept it, the faster we become comfortable with ourselves. Like when I discovered someone at work who I thought was completely straight laced, was actually in a rock band… A ROCK BAND?!
I’ve had a bit of a journey trying to accept myself. I have more weirdness than your average person and trying to squeeze all the odd aspects of myself into one group is impossible – a fact I have only recently been able to accept. So I’ve stopped trying. Now I’m carving my own hole, standing up and saying ‘I will’ and knowing that every piece of me I can accept makes me a better writer, more creative, more able to understand the plight of others.
I’ve accepted the weird in me… have you?