I don’t have a religion, I’m a cynic, I’m very critical of everything, I over-analyze, I have an extremely dark and broad sense of humor, and I reject most everything I encounter – can there be a common thread? Yes. I’m weird, and damn proud of it. It’s been a rather gradual process of going my own way; it’s not as though I fearlessly marched my way into total individuality – it’s been a long and difficult road that, quite frankly, I’m still on. It’s so tempting to fall in line with something: as a man I can certainly wear Polo shirts and those horrible/tacky salmon-colored shorts that are worn almost exclusively by privileged white men or white men who wish to look privileged and/or nautically-inclined, I can listen to pop radio and watch reality TV, I can spend every free moment on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, one might argue that by resisting every one of those, I am dooming myself to life as an outsider. But, if being an outsider entitles me to live the way I please, then count me in.
You really do owe it to yourself to be as weird as you can possibly be. Weirdness can be alienating, but you learn to live with it because individuality is so rewarding. For whatever reason, I get strange looks whenever I’m in public – mind you, on any given day I’m just wearing black pants, a black shirt, some sort of stylish shoe (or two) and sunglasses – none of which I would think of as being particularly outrageous. I tend towards the eccentric because I don’t know any other way. I’ve tried to be a bit more “in” but it hurt too much. We so often find ourselves trying to subconsciously join a group with which we want ourselves affiliated. I certainly did this a few times, it feels empty.
To some, eschewing personal identity for group identity is a way that they feel that they belong. However, when you ask such a person who they are, they’ll likely give more of a description of the group aesthetic and mindset – this includes the “woke.” During my time in a band, I too subscribed to group identity. You may not know it if you saw me at the time, but I was in the same situation as those striving to fit in at the yacht club. You would have seen a man trying desperately to be different. A good portion of my showboating and flair was necessary to mask an inability to perform musically – I figured that I should at least look good. So, I dove headlong into wearing a ton of makeup every day, wearing unusual and revealing outfits, all to fit in. That became my identity, I was the guy in the group who looked like a drag queen on an off day. I felt like a joke – not that drag is a joke, because it most certainly is not, but my whole aesthetic felt like a put-on. In leaving the band and taking stock of everything, I discovered that I was not a show pony, but also not some average man. In returning to school and dialing back the eccentricity to an unexaggerated and natural level, I found myself again. I’m an intellectual, effeminate weirdo. In the band, I willingly shed my own identity for the group and it felt right at the time. It felt that to fully serve the group, I couldn’t be myself. The strange thing is that from the outside, one would see me and would assume that I was a highly secure in my own individuality, but I was certainly not. Everything I was doing, save my own kindness towards others, was for the group. I wouldn’t allow myself anything that didn’t benefit the group or would set myself apart from the group.
Are you doing this? My example is an unusual one, yours may be mundane in comparison to a gothic off-duty drag queen, but that doesn’t make it any less significant. If you ever find yourself changing who you are – sacrificing your individuality – to please a group when it really isn’t what you want to do, stop. If it no longer feels right, stop. If you know in your soul that who you appear to be isn’t who you really are, break free. Please. Do this for yourself. You owe it to yourself to be as weird as you can possibly be. There is no shame in that.
I’m still quite unusual, but I’ve honed all of the elements to zero in on who I am. I’m confident, I don’t feel like I’m putting anything on. I feel like myself. And let me tell you, it doesn’t go unnoticed. People know when you’re comfortable with yourself. It’s so obvious when someone is trying desperately to be something or to fit in. For my entire time in the band, I never had a single person tell me that I seem to be doing well (monetarily, spiritually, or otherwise) – not a one. But now I’ve shaped all of the different components into the (current) optimal version of myself that I’m happy with, and people notice. I’ve had multiple people tell me on separate occasions that whatever has shifted within me is for the best, that I seem to be on solid footing, that I seem warmer and more open.
If you’re fucking weird, embrace it. If you feel like all of the people around you are drones who look the same and like the same things, flip it. You don’t have to like anything that you’re told to like, you don’t have to do anything that you’re told to do. Everyone loved the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, I was told to love it, but I thought it was one of the worst written movies I’ve seen in my whole life – that’s fine. When you give in to your weirdness, it’s as though your marionette strings are severed and you can walk free. There is nothing tugging at you – you’re free.
I think that we often fear abandoning a group because we’re really afraid of what we are without it. I certainly was. I thought that without the group, I was nothing – but that simply isn’t the case. If you shed a group, after a somewhat painful clean-up process, you’ll discover what and who you are. Others don’t define you. This isn’t to say that belonging to a group is bad – inherently, it isn’t. But when it changes so much about you that you lose the trail of crumbs back to your center, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.
I’ll close with this: you don’t necessarily become more comfortable with your true self by trying to fit in with a group.