A writer friend of mine who’s been critiquing my most recent work asked me if I intentionally wrote about crazy people. “Seriously, do you close your eyes and open the DSM to a random page to pick out a form of nuttiness for your heroines?”
I don’t. But I admit, it does sound like a fun thing to try.
Anyway, she has a point. I tend to write about some off-beat or quirky people. And it’s only in part to make my readers laugh. I do it mostly because I’ve decided to make my life’s work and mission to encourage and inspire everyone to embrace their own “personal brand of weirdness” (as Chester Butterworth in Revenge Cafe says), and to celebrate their quirkiness instead of trying to change and fit in with society.
On the one hand, I understand why it’s necessary to go with the status quo. We all need to agree on some things like stopping at a red light, holding doors open for people on crutches, and not wearing electric blue eye shadow all the way up to your eyebrows. However, if you notice, things of that nature all fall under a similar rubric: be respectful of the people around you. If we all behaved that way, the world would be a friendlier place, a safer place and, dare I say a more aesthetically pleasing one?
It’s when we go beyond respecting others and go into expecting others to be a certain way that we have problems. And we (and by that, I mean primarily we women) tend to do that.
It’s no wonder we’re so freaking tired all the time. We expend an exorbitant amount of energy trying to squash out anything eccentric within us so that we can fit in and be like everyone else, telling ourselves we’re doing the “right” things. I’m betting if we could channel that energy into an outlet, we’d be able to charge a fleet of Teslas. And why do we do it? So that we don’t have to face that judgmental response that others (again, primarily women) will give us when we don’t fulfill their expectations.
No matter what we do, what we wear, how we look, how we rear our children, how we manage our weight, how we use our time, how anything happens in our lives, there are a large amount of people out there who will think that we’re doing it all wrong. And I’ve noticed they tend to make that judgement call based on the fact that we’re not doing it the way they do it.
It’s been this way all our lives. We’re conditioned to think it’s normal to rely on what “everyone” is doing to know what’s right (despite our mothers asking us about jumping off a bridge–which, I can’t help but think they asked because all the other mothers were asking). And, since the tendency is so pervasive, maybe it is normal.
But that doesn’t mean it has to be. And it certainly doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, it can be soul crushing. I know from personal experience.
Which is why I gave up on worrying about whether or not I was doing what’s normal and what’s expected. I seriously did. It took about a decade because there were a whole host of people, a whole series of events, and a whole lotta bullshit in my head that I had to deal with first.
The biggest obstacle was acknowledging that I really did care about what other people thought of me. I was in a deep state of denial on that one–I kept telling myself I didn’t care, but really, deep down I did. And it ate away at me (which is almost funny, because that’s when I simultaneously put on the pounds).
And now that I’ve made it through, now that I’m on the other side and experiencing what true freedom is, I’m loving life like I never have before. I only buy clothes I LOVE. I only eat according to what makes my body feel good and what I enjoy. I quit reading parenting books and advice columns. I don’t jump on the latest business trend without questioning it. Most importantly, I don’t give other people power over me because I’ve learned to value my own appreciation of myself over valuing whether anyone else appreciates me.
And the key ingredient in appreciating me was in appreciating my own unique brand of weirdness.
My friendships are now true friendships. My relationship with my husband has more joy and love in it than ever before, as is my relationship with my kids. Yes, becoming more “selfishly” motivated to make sure I was happy with me, resulted with happier people all around me.
I would suggest that all women do that, but then I’d be setting up expectations. So I won’t.
Instead, I’ll do my best to entertain and inspire in the hopes that everyone who reads my stuff finds a way to relax and celebrate their own personal brand of weirdness.