The Outsider Part 2: living off-label

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

~Albert Camus

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.

*Daniel Mackler.  I include this video here, not because I consider Mr Mackler an outsider (that would be for him to determine), but because I value his observations on the contrast between a heavily, externally-structured (normal) life and one that allows enough time to address existential questions and is perhaps characterised by a more solitary or contemplative lifestyle.

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.”

Oscar Wilde

“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.”

Marcus Aurelius

“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.”

James Hollis

“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.”

Jean Webster

“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.”

Elizabeth Lowell

“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?”


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8 Comments Add yours

  1. jim- says:

    I half expected Mcandlesses dad to apologize. It was a terrible phase of life and virtually every single one of us needs to take responsibility for our behavior, get help at some point and move forward. His pride makes him an asshole.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stephen says:

      Hi Jim. I know what you mean. I had a similar feeling. It’s obvious there was something ulhealthy going on in the family. Although, I hesitate in judging, especially knowing they’ve lost their son. I admire the kid’s guts in following his spirit though. Even though it got the poor guy killed in the end.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jim- says:

        I read the book when it came out. I had just watched into the wild on Netflix a week ago. Krakauer also did the failed Everest expedition “into thin air”, which was quite good too. I love adventure. I wouldn’t mind Alaska like that, but just for fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Stephen says:

        Yes, me too. I love wild camping but in Scotland there aren’t any animals that can kill you (apart from the local thugs) so a tent is safe enough. But in Alaska, you’d need a weapon. I also wouldn’t fancy an old school bus like the one he ended up in. Although that would be better protection from bears at least!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. jim- says:

        I went to Alaska for a week a few years ago. If I had gone earlier in life I may have never come back either. Beautiful place. Right now I’m in NE Washington state near Canada and also have a place in Panama.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Stephen says:

        Nice. Sounds like the best of both worlds.


  2. Cherry Ward says:

    I have often felt like there was some part of me losing touch with the mainstream,I think it could be in part just getting older.Recently we had just shy of a Cat 5 hurricane here and it helped me to realize how much we are all in this together. The level of destruction is overwhelming at times,but the human spirit can be just as awesome as any hurricane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stephen says:

      Hi Cherry. Thank you for stopping by. I hope that hurricane didn’t do any damage to your property!

      I think that crisis can be an amazing motivator for bringing people together to cooperate with one another. And common struggle is certainly something that has bonded communities in the past. It’s great when people choose to do that and I’ve seen it myself around here if we even get an unusual amount of snow, for example. People start talking to one another again! I guess an extreme example of that kind of cooperation would be 9/11.

      At the same time, I’ve also seen our society in the UK change and become more fragmented as more and more people do their own thing. It can be harder for people to come together even when they want to because we’ve changed our culture to make ordinary, everyday cooperation that much harder. Outside of crisis periods, a culture of estrangement can be harder to cope with for some individuals.

      Liked by 1 person

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