It’s Likely Better to Be Weird Than Normal

See here for the Finnish version: On todennäköisesti parempi olla outo kuin normaali

As far as I can see, calling someone weird usually has a negative tone. However, if we take a look at why this is so, it turns out maybe it shouldn’t be the case at all.

When a person or something they do is thought to be weird, what is that all about anyway? While I neither can nor will try to write a complete psychological analysis on the subject, I will say this much: What appears to cause the feeling of weirdness is when something appears alien and not what we are accustomed to. People often shun such things and can even feel that they are somehow wrong. Thus, it is often not a good thing to get called weird.

But does this mean that being weird is otherwise a bad thing?  This would follow if things that bother people because they are not accustomed to them were likely to be somehow undesirable. If so, it would be desirable to be “normal”, that being some vague imaginary average value of what people are thought to be like.

However, it’s pretty generally accepted that people are different from each other. Further, at least provided we accept just that part of Western individualist culture that I am prepared to accept, it’s good for a person to be genuinely themselves and not just try to conform to the expectations of others. Individualism is even admired on some level — yet, if someone really is different enough, they will receive negative reactions and even be pressured to be more normal. And in any case, it appears as “weird”. Nevertheless, if we really respect a person’s right to be as they really are, there is nothing wrong with such weirdness. The same follows if we appreciate creativity and truly novel innovation.

The reasons for something appearing weird are fairly irrelevant for evaluating the sensibleness or desirability of said thing. A weird thing is likely usually just something that people certainly aren’t in the habit of doing. It’s not impossible that there could also be inborn or biological reasons behind something appearing weird — but even that would not be the same thing as there being natural reasons why it is wrong. Not eating is not just weird, it’s dangerous for physiological reasons, but something like an evolution-caused fear of spiders does not make the little spiders found in Finland dangerous.  (In fact, I can’t even think of a good example of a potentially inborn reason to think something weird. But the point is that should there be such reasons, that changes nothing.)

What this all leads to is that if there is no other good reason not to do something than that it is “weird”, avoiding such weirdness just means you’re trying to please people who are reacting to things irrationally because they are not able to question the origins of their own automatic reactions. I certainly have no intention, short of being forced to by the circumstances, to care about the criticism or ridicule of people just parroting baseless ideas implanted in them by culture or habit that they cannot necessarily even access. I’d rather make a good impression on people who are more open-minded and self-aware.

Once one is able to accept the weirdness in others (or in things that one does oneself), it can also be appealing in itself. Oftentimes I think or feel specifically that what is great about someone or something is, among other things, just their peculiarity or weirdness. I am not sure what this is about psychologically. At least peculiar things are fascinating.

It’s of course not right to say that one must not be “normal” in some sense. It’s likely that everyone is to some extent, and what reason is there to think that someone could not be fully themselves just when wholly normal? However, since everyone is different, and there are so many things to be different in regards to, it’s unlikely that any given individual would not be weird in at least some sense. In any case, being normal for its own sake is not a good goal.

What I say here should not be confused with certain other thoughts that might sound similar. For example, I am by no means saying that we should not be rational. And, in regards to many things, rationality leads to the same results regardless of person, for example when speaking of general moral rules. These last are sometimes in accordance with social expectations, sometimes contrary to. It is also good to listen to sensible criticism of others. So, I am also not saying a person can never have any reason to change. But the reason must be real. It should also be noted that being rational can well be weird in the eyes of others who are stuck thinking about things in more limited ways.

Secondly, to be weird is not necessarily to be genuine. What I did say was that to be genuine is usually to be weird. You’re not necessarily being yourself if you’re just trying to be as different from everyone else as possible or to be weird to attract attention.

Thirdly, it may be necessary to acquiesce to irrational demands to conform to other people’s expectations in some circumstances. However, to say this is a little like to say that women should avoid some specific behaviour, such as going to some places or dressing in some ways, if they don’t want to be raped; it may even be true sometimes, but in that case the situation is that it may be best for someone to avoid doing certain things that are not in themselves in any way wrong or condemnable, because the situation in some place is so bad that otherwise they may be assaulted in a completely unjustified manner by others. Of course, what we are talking about here is a lesser thing than rape — except that in some socially and morally underdeveloped community it could even be the same thing. Conforming to the irrational demands of others is not necessarily just a matter of avoiding ridicule, it may also be a matter of life and death. But this is going a bit beyond the current topic.

Thus, it is only rational to accept the genuine weirdness in ourselves and others. A strong and interesting individual is likely to be weird. To try to be normal is likely just conformity and lack of courage.

Sama suomeksi.

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