“Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, and troubadours, for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.”– Jacob Nordby
In my six years as an undertaker, I was always struck by the ordinary weirdness of human beings. Eulogies are filled with memories of mundane idiosyncrasies, quirks, and funny habits. These are things we treasure and miss about people.
Weirdness is par for the course of humanity. We are all weird in our own way. And yet we learn to fight those parts of ourselves that don’t fit the mould. We hide them, judge them, and crush them.
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown defines belonging as “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us”. She says, “because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging but often barriers to it.” And then later, in Braving The Wilderness, she described “the quest for true belonging” as underpinned by our “courage to stand alone”.
In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, we ask how we might nurture the courage to embrace and express our normally weird selves in life.
- What Makes Us Ordinary is What Also Makes Us Weird | 1:48
- The Parable of The Blind Men and The Elephant | 6.29
- Belonging in The Wilderness | 14:30
- Self-Belief, Impostor Syndrome, and True Belonging | 21:26
- Perfectionism and Conditional Belonging | 26:12
- Ordinary Weirdness and The Courage to Be Disliked | 41:44
- Identifying Our Path – Confidence in How We Go | 48:21
What Makes Us Ordinary is What Also Makes Us Weird | 1:48
Ordinary weirdness is not something that can be forced. It’s how we express our experience of life as the proverbial elephant.
The Parable of The Blind Men and The Elephant | 6.29
You may know the story of the six blind men who wanted to figure out the form of an elephant.
“We get stuck in the metaphor of language. But it’s really the abstract sensation that connects everything. Art that is sensual goes straight to the ball of sensation that is in the centre of us. It bypasses words. This is what is Real.”– Alex Paxton
My friend Alex talked about his relationship with art and its role in his understanding of life.
Language is the imperfect tool we use to try to make abstract things concrete.
But life is a lot like the elephant. We can feel and describe different parts of it. But none of us can ever capture the entire thing. And even as we define it, we do so with comparisons to other things. So art (and a life of ordinary creative exploration) keeps us moving around the elephant, finding new ways to feel, imagine, and describe it. But we never fully grasp it.
Our experience and understanding of reality sits at the heart of our unique and weird ways of seeing the world.
This is why there is always another piece to paint, song to sing, book to write, and truth to speak.
Ordinary Weirdness in Everyday Life | 9:33
We discussed this in a Haven Kota session and recognised that “weird” is not an easy word for everyone to hold. It can carry baggage if used as an insult or criticism.
There isn’t a perfect word to describe this ordinary everyday weirdness. We thought about “authentic”, but that carries a sense of essentialism, which I don’t think we’re talking about. It’s the freedom to engage with the present moment from the safe uncertainty of our ball of sensation.
Belonging in The Wilderness | 14:30
Brené Brown says that True Belonging is the antidote to a crisis of disconnection.
Braving the wilderness requires us to feel alone in the face of “uncertainty, vulnerability and criticism.” This is the definition of wilderness when the world feels hostile and “like a political and ideological combat zone”.
But this is important because we become tied to a desire to fit in, gain approval, and do what the group needs of us. Which ignores this more resounding call for belonging that we all have. That “we’re connected by love and the human spirit. No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we are part of the same spiritual story.”
If we allow them to live, our weird bits connect us as we navigate the absurdity of life together.
Joseph Campbell said, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
This is a reminder that “true belonging is not something you negotiate externally; it’s what you carry in your heart. It’s finding the sacredness in being a part of something. When we reach this place, even momentarily, we belong everywhere and nowhere. That seems absurd, but it’s true.”
Self-Belief, Impostor Syndrome, and True Belonging | 21:26
Impostor syndrome is the feeling that arises from the belief that we are not as competent as other people. Or we are not as capable as other people think we are. In other words, it’s the feeling that we don’t quite fit.
The true impostor wants everyone to think they fit so that they can take something.
Explorers, journeyers, dancers might be outsiders but they are not impostors. We are the poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters, and troubadours. We belong to the outside, not with a desire to get in, but an openness to give, contribute, and feel this thing called life from another angle and through another lens.
In this way, fitting in is different from belonging.
Entitlement vs Belonging (True Safety) | 23:32
A desire for entitlement accompanies the drive to fit in. In contrast, the feeling of belonging is a place of universal acceptance (of ordinary weirdness).
There are two types of safety that we find here. Entitlement is safety as protection from the outside, based on the special treatment you get on the inside. This kind of safety depends on you conforming to the requirements and conditions of the group.
True belonging, however, is a sense of safety as permission to be you. Safety to be vulnerable rather than safety from vulnerability. You belong because you’re here. You don’t have to do anything, be anyone, or change yourself to be accepted.
Perfectionism and Conditional Belonging | 26:12
One potential offshoot of conditional belonging is fear of failing and perfectionism. Where we become influenced by the consequences of messing up.
Perfection is described as “the action or process of improving something until it is faultless”.
How could we possibly reach such a place?
‘Perfectionism’ is not about achieving a tangible outcome. It’s an attachment to dissatisfaction in the face of everything.
Perfectionism is not simply a desire for high standards and top-quality results. It is always in pursuit of satisfaction but can never be satisfied. No matter how good it gets, it will never do quite enough.
Despite appearances, perfectionism is not about producing quality. It’s about our relationship with our belief in the idea of ‘faultless’. Perfection is like a black hole. It’s a void, made conspicuous by its lack of definition. And there’s no space for ordinary weirdness in there.
An Ode to Imperfection and Ordinary Weirdness | 32:40
I wrote this ode to imperfection.
Stop Caring THAT People Think | 38:44
We might defensively say, “I don’t care what people think of me“. But of course we care what people think. We are social animals with a basic need for safety and belonging. But when we allow ourselves to care about other things MORE, we can unshackle from the fear and shame-based responses to other people’s judgements and criticism.
Self-consciousness is a disconnection from our self. Seeing ourselves through the projected critical or ridiculing eyes of the world around us comes in different shapes and forms.
We can’t control WHAT people think, but we can make peace with the fact THAT people WILL think of us sometimes. By accepting that people will judge us and view us with criticism, envy, disdain and so on, we begin to change our relationship and stop caring THAT people think of us.
Otherwise, we might stop doing what we love doing. We might not start doing what we’d love to do. And we might shrink ourselves and not contribute to our lives, our relationships, and the world at large in ways we feel calling from the ball of sensation inside us.
Ordinary Weirdness and The Courage to Be Disliked | 41:44
In The Courage to Be Disliked, Kishimi and Koga introduce Alfred Adler’s school of Individual Psychology. They speak to the ordinary weirdness of everyday life and how we will be disliked no matter what we do. In other words, they suggest, we might as well be ourselves and contribute to creating a world we actually believe in as we go.
This is not a case of acting IN ORDER to be disliked. It’s acting DESPITE the inevitability of being disliked. Being liked or disliked isn’t the driving force…our deeper values and principles are.
Identifying Our Path – Confidence in How We Go | 48:21
Self-belonging gives us confidence in HOW we choose to be, not in WHAT we are allowed (or not) to be. Likewise, there’s something beautiful about getting to know someone over time and seeing glimpses of their weird normality.
No one is entitled to those parts of us. Letting our weird out is a choice. In safe environments and when we experience the safety of other people, our weirdness will probably slip out.
We need these environments, these people, and these places, because our everyday weirdness can get locked away, stuck behind glass.
Of course, Introverts and Highly Sensitive People get told to come out of their shells or speak up. But no one is entitled to an open you. It might be that right now, you let your inner weird breathe when you’re alone. In your studio, bedroom, kitchen, garden, etc. as long as you have somewhere to keep in touch with it. I would hate for it to stay behind glass!
The Temple of Dreams | 53:36
In Blessed Are The Weird, Jacob Nordby shares a story called, The Temple Of Dreams.
In the story, the wise woman asks the man what he wants. He can’t answer. He says he doesn’t know. But then comes the realisation, “I do want something, or I wouldn’t be here. It’s just that I have become content with my things.”
“I want everything exactly as it is,” he said. “I know that life unfolds to give me what is best.”
“Well, I have a house and comfortable things. I enjoy my work and appreciate my friends. I have everything a man should want except….” “Except,” she said. “Tell me the except. ‘Except’ is everything you have never dared to ask.”
In our Haven Kota conversation, we explored different ways of relating to the “except”. Maybe we know what our “except” is, but something stops us from following it. Or perhaps we understand we want something, but we can’t figure out what.
There is ALWAYS an “except” at some level. Something is always alive in us. And I finish the episode with a reflective question that can help us identify our feelings and needs at any given moment.
What is Alive in You Right Now? | 66:14
You can get in touch if you’ve noticed something alive in you and want to explore ways to embrace, express, or explore it. I often have coaching slots available and would love to hear from you.