Whilst most of us long for kinship with others who will accept us, approve of us, validate our ideas and beliefs, some of us don’t. Many of us will adjust ourselves in order to fit in and secure such approval, or for the sake of ‘a quiet life’, even to the extent of compromising our declared values, beliefs and appearance. But some amongst us either find ourselves unable or unwilling to adapt to the group identity and find ourselves on the periphery. This is by far the hardest and loneliest path to follow in life, particularly when we seek validation from others whilst experiencing ourselves as being fundamentally different from them. The need for affirmation can be a core issue for such people.
The downside for the outsider seeking help can sometimes be the response of a system that turns out to be very disaffirming to individual identity and differences due to our system being calibrated to the needs of a majority who fit into it fairly well. Outsiders can sometimes be unfairly stigmatised simply because they don’t necessarily fit established categories and models used to assess and understand the statistical majority. And so an outsider’s ‘normality’ can seem at odds with ‘social normality’. Within settings that base psychopathology upon deviations from social norms, unique individuals can occasionally find themselves being labelled in ways that simply do not accurately reflect their reality. Experiencing this can damage trust and, understandably, turn such people off the idea of seeking help, support or guidance ever again.
The upside for the outsider is that if he or she builds upon a foundation of authenticity, personal integrity and astute awareness, then he or she can thrive in the world on his or her own terms. But it takes work. This is where personal development work with the right person can help us move from a place of shakiness and self-doubt, social phobia or chronic insecurity, resentment or withdrawal, to a place of self-confident stability and creative social skills that help us navigate our way through the social jungle with a resilience that keeps us feeling safe in our own skin.
In the meantime, if you find yourself ‘not fitting in’, don’t despair. You have as much right to be here as anyone. Here are some quotes and videos that might inspire you to hold fast and be true to your being. Because the fact is, in a society increasingly homogenised and standardised to support the superficial appearance of uniqueness, whilst taking an increasingly intolerant stance against dissent, self-reliance and independent thought, the world needs more genuine free spirits, not fewer:
Some famous individuals who didn’t fit in or who refused to conform: Charles Bukowski, Frank Serpico, John Taylor Gatto, Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, Lenny Bruce, Maya Angelou, Christopher McCandless, George Carlin, Soren Kierkegaard, Friederich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, Joan of Arc, Jesus Christ, Socrates…
“Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.”
“Whatever anyone does or says, I must be [true], just as if the gold, or the emerald, or the purple were always saying this, whatever anyone does or says, I must be emerald and keep my color.”
“Blessed are the solitary, and the elect,
for they shall discover the kingdom from which
they come, and to which they must return.”
Gospel of Thomas, verse 49
“Thus we are forced into a difficult choice: anxiety or depression. If we move forward, as our soul insists, we may be flooded with anxiety. If we do not move forward, we will suffer the depression, the pressing down of the soul’s purpose. In such a difficult choice one must choose anxiety, for anxiety is at least the path of personal growth; depression is a stagnation and defeat of life.”
“Half of the time I don’t know what they’re talking about; their jokes seem to relate to a past that everyone but me has shared. I’m a foreigner in the world and I don’t understand the language.”
“Some of us aren’t meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it.”
“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
“In my life why do I give valuable time to people who don’t care if I live or die?”