The following is a guest submission from author Ophelia Polonius. Enjoy!
Does that hair really go with that top? We hope not and probably, so does she. pinterest.com
When I grew up, I immersed myself in my odd hobbies with gusto, wore what I wanted (within school and parental limitations - who likes being grounded and phone-less, really?) and spoke up when something was REALLY important to me.
When my mother grew up, it was a different story. Whereas I fought valiantly to change minds and change the world, my mother carefully hiked her skirt up just one inch to be "cool" without crossing a line - or else be a social pariah.
Where I spoke out, she wrote anonymously for the school paper under a pseudonym. I indulged (and continue to indulge) my love for and fascination with all things dark and unusual. Mom, a non-hippie, bedroom-community daughter, kept her odd, rather unexplainable experiences with things that went bump in the night to herself. For decades.
"In the 70s, it was GREAT to be different," my mother is fond of telling me, "as long as you were different in the same way everyone else was. After that, you were 'too different' and guaranteed never to be asked out. I mean...ever."
To me, that spoke volumes. As we march through time on this big blue marble together, collectively we as a human species are inching toward more and more acceptance of differences. But when I think about how we can still only be "different" within carefully constructed limits, I realize we still have a ways to go.
Still, I feel lucky to be alive today, when how I dress, what I take an interest in, and even my career and life and love choices can have their say without my being blacklisted or shut out entirely.
But does that mean it's actually good to be different? Are there benefits to extreme uniqueness not only for the individual herself, but for those around her?
Yes. And here's why.
Being Different Makes You Stronger
If you're in the thick of a bullying campaign and you're in a quandary as to whom to tell without becoming an utter pariah, or if you want to fit in but you just "feel different," or if you're struggling at all (most unique people do), you may have read that header and said, "Oh please, Ophelia. Blank off."
Or you may not have said "blank." Whichever...I heard you loud and clear. Probably all the clearer because I WAS bullied in school, at least for a while, for being "weird," having "weird interests," wearing too much black (there's such a thing?) and (gasp!) reading too much. (ZOMG noooooooo!)
You SHOULD NEVER accept bullying (not against yourself, and not against anyone else; please, please report bullying, at school, at work, or if within the bounds of family, grow a giant set and speak up).
But when it's not bullying but rather a continuous side-eye for your differences - something people can't seem to help - knowing this is happening, and pushing forward anyway, can help you develop a thicker skin, realize who you truly are, and allow you to stand up for other things in the future.
Really...doesn't the world need more of that? We think it does.
Being Different Makes You More Accepting
People who have struggled to fit in occasionally turn out to be absolute shitheads. However, far, far more often - at least in our experience - they wind up MORE compassionate than the average person and hence, more accepting of differences, including those they don't personally agree with.
Finding acceptance of yourself from within tends to project outward, giving you a well-rounded view of the world and allowing you to see the beauty in everything, and everyone around you.
Now that's beautiful.
Being Different Makes Others Brave
On the heels of that comment above, when you come right out and show your true colors, warts and all (hey, warts can be cool!), others will see your example and will follow it.
Think about it. Don't you have heroes who encouraged you, just by being themselves, to find out who you truly were?
Unique or not, we tend to get inspiration (and bravery) from those who have come before us, those we see as having broken new ground. It's time to pay it forward and be that inspiration to the next person...so we can ALL be happy inside our own skin.
Being Different Creates Change
If everything stayed the same all the time, we'd still be sitting around a fire shivering with only our fingers on the cave wall making shadow-puppets for entertainment. Not that such breathlessly rockin' times don't have their place, but let's face it, we didn't get wash-and-wear fabrics, indoor plumbing or computers from NORMAL people. (Sorry, Bill.)
What I'm saying here is: status quo-loving people don't change or invent things. Why? They're already thrilled with the way things are. Change happens when we want to see, live, be or do something different in our lives and the lives of others. That urge to try something brand-new has taken us from partially tree-dwelling and constantly fearful of tigers to sick cell phones, meals ready in 40 seconds or less and Duckface. (Okay, so not EVERY invention is awesome.) And the new-ness just keeps on coming.
For the record, squelching your differences, provided they're not hurting anybody, tends to throttle things into immediate reverse, shutting down creativity, slowing progress and causing more fearfulness and less joy. And honestly. Who the hell doesn't want more joy? I know I do. There's no such thing as too much hell yes.
Enjoy your differences and those of others...and make the world a much, much cooler place, one corset, CD or bizarre interest at a time.