Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Feeling Exceptionally Different

I got a letter today that I sort of want to share:

Yeah, I do say "don't care what other people think," but maybe you should! I dunno, maybe you should just attempt to act a lot more the way people expect you to act. And if that sounds mean or something, I'm sorry. It's not meant to be. It just seems like you have this love-hate relationship with being dfferent thatn everybody else, like you're somehow proud of it, but at the same time wish you were "just like everybody else." I'm not even sure what "just like everybody else" means, because everybody is unique. It jsut seems to me like you've gotten it in to your head that youre somehow exceptionally different than anybody else and sometimes you embrace it and other times you resent it or something. I don't know, I'm not you, but if that is something of the case, I would suggest to just stop thinking about yourself as exceptionally different in the first place.

He's right... but easier said than done.

I want to talk a bit about being different. There are some things that make a person different that can't be changed, and probably shouldn't ever have to be. A person's color, wealth, etc. It's not fair for others to try and make them feel like they have to change. I am straight, for example. I don't think I should have people telling me I should be gay.
But there are things that can be changed. The way I dress, the things I say, the decisions I make. I am my own person. I can pursue my own dreams and be who I want to be. I have a right to control my own self to the best of my ability in the way I want to. If I want to dress like a giant lobster, I can if I want to. But of course, society will definitely view that negatively. I admit, some things society deems right and wrong are a bit irrational. Just because I don't wear skinny jeans doesn't mean I should be shunned from society. Just because I say words like "beseech" and "connundrum" doesn't mean people should think I'm crazy. But there are things... how I treat other people, how I interact. People pick up on things and make judgements about me. I have little control over that.
So I have a choice. I can either be exactly who I am, do what I want and not care what others think. Or I can be wise in the ways of society, figure out what things I need to change, and then change them. What is worse? Conforming? Or rebelling? Is it rebelling? Is it conforming? What if society is right? In the meantime, I'm still questioning who my "true self" is? I don't think a person can say, "This is just the way I am," because you can change who you are. Who you are is based on the decisions you make. And YOU make them. It's not like there's an external force that's making you choose one thing over another. So if I conform to society, am I denying the person I really am? Well, no. I just am what society wants me to be. That's not terrible. I am not lying to myself if I am totally committed in my decision.

In the meantime, am I really as different as I think I am? I get told over and over again that I'm "weird," "unique," "different." But am I different because people tell me I am? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is my weirdness innate? CAN I change it? Mr. Letter Writer was right. I think of myself as different from others. But only because people tell me I am different. I have conformed to their own belief, formed it as my own.

So in order to stop thinking of myself as exceptionally different from everyone else, I have to stop listening to people who tell me I'm different.... which is not conforming. Which makes me more different? Hm... It's quite a muddle.

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