Revisiting #Be Weird

Sharon Barnes CASIGY

Graham-Moore-Oscar-acceptanceDuring the 2015 Academy Awards Ceremony,  I was blown away by Oscar winning writer Graham Moore’s acceptance speech when he shared,

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here.

Graham Moore expressed openly what so many CASIGYs™ (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense, Intelligent, likely Introverted, possibly Gifted You-s) secretly feel: a sense of being weird because of being different and therefore of not belonging─not finding a suitable place in the world.

I’d like to revisit this, and encourage CASIGYs™ everywhere to #Be Weird.

Many CASIGY™ children and youth observe, often from an early age, that they are different from the norm. Many times, there is also a pressure to conform, to be “normal” in order to fit in. Yet Graham Moore had found a way to stand out and be different in a good way.

The audience at the Oscars gave Moore a standing ovation, and as they did, their faces showed identification with his pain, his struggle and his eventual victory. They also applauded his continuing message,

I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

Maybe you know a kindergartner who feels stifled when he wants to wear non-matching socks, or plaids and stripes pic15759together and gets reprimanded by the teacher and made fun of by his classmates─if he’s lucky enough to get out of the house wearing something that will embarrass his mother.

Maybe you know a kindergartner who feels rejected and excluded when she’s told she can no longer answer the kindergarten teacher’s questions to the class, and she needs to wait so that others can have a chance to answer them (when they don’t actually know the answers, and she’s the only one who does).

Maybe you know a nine year old who gets so overloaded with sensory stimulation at a family gathering that he implodes in a massive meltdown of tears and inability to talk about what’s happening inside of him and is called a crybaby by his family.

Maybe you know an eleven year old who cannot bring herself to enter the classroom for another day of excruciating boredom and inability to meet requirements for volumes of tedious, tiring repetitive work and feels even more inferior than she already did when she gets labeled with multiple inaccurate mental health diagnoses because of these difficulties.

Maybe you know a teen who wants to spend all day writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, or taking photos and instead has to sit through a boring, overstimulating pep rally and endless wearisome classes in which no new information is conveyed, and so he decides to skip school and do his creative work instead.

Maybe you know an adult who sees through the politically correct platitudes spoken by employers and sees the long term implications and effects of short-sighted decisions and speaks her mind about it —to the horror of her co-workers and the reprimands of her supervisor.

The opportunities for reinforcement of “not fitting in” and not belonging are ever-present. The dilemmas these create in the lives of CASIGYs™ can sometimes be daunting.

Graham Moore’s winning an Oscar and sharing his victory along with his previous pain can inspire us because his struggle to find a place for himself in society can echo our own pain and his victory can give us hope that we can become victorious, too.

But how do we do that?

Even as I write this,  the temptation to oversimplify along with the need to “be perfect” arises in me. So, with the understanding that there are many other factors involved that there is not time and space to address here, and with the intent to find a middle path through a mine field fraught with platitudes and perfectionism, let’s continue on.

In order for a CASIGY™ to find and take our proper place in society, we need to develop our weirdness to a high level, that is, to develop our individuality.

Or more accurately, to continue to develop it to deeper and/or higher level, which is to develop it more than we already have; to develop it more than many, even most, others do.

Wait! Before you click away, let me explain. If the phrase “take our proper place in society” sticks in your craw, please hear me out.

By ‘taking our proper place’, I mean finding and inhabiting a psychic place that suits us, fits us and feels like home to us AND brings out the best in us.

This psychic place is an INTERNAL space that fits our personality, temperament, interests, gifts and abilities, and who we truly are, deep inside.

Our proper place is where we ARE and FEEL at home in our own skin.

For it is only when we are at home in our own skin that the acceptance of others has any meaning or has any hook to hang on, so to speak.

Unless and until we accept ourselves from the inside out, with all of our foibles, our asynchronous development, our overexcitabilities, and sensitivities along with our strengths and abilities, that we will be able to recognize and inhabit our “proper place.”

Only when we are at home in our own skin can our proper place be one in which we reach deep within ourselves to use our gifts, talents and abilities to make a creative contribution to our communities.  Needless to say, our proper place is not one in which we take on the roles and follow the dictates of society.

We find “our proper place” when we discover how to connect and contribute in ways that are not only meaningful to us, but that fulfill our reason for being on this planet at this time and in this place, and that also meets a need in others.

But there are many temptations for people with multiple abilities.

  • The first is to mistake our uniqueness for defectiveness.
  • Another is to allow ourselves to be pulled or pushed this way or that, according to what others see in us, and how they want to use (or exploit) our abilities.
  • Even after we finally feel at home in our own skins, new challenges often show up.   As Graham Moore also says, “I think my agents are probably in a room right now trying to find some way of convincing me to become like a big Hollywood muckety-muck. But I’m just too weird for that.”[i]

Our need to develop our weirdness, AKA our individuality, continues. Individuality demands that we each find our own path and our own Mountain Sheepway through the wilderness, sometimes without a path.  We may walk on a path now and then, and have traveling companions at times, but developing our individuality is often a lonely endeavor. As Graham Moore also says about the man who inspired “The Imitation Game”, “Alan [Turing] always seemed to me like this guy who was so isolated from everyone else, but it was precisely because of that isolation that he had this view of the world that no one else did (emphasis mine).”[ii]

It can help us to ‘get’ this:  the isolation that many CASIGYs™ feel because of our uniqueness provides a “view of the world that no one else [has].”

Yes, we want to belong; we want our children or students want to belong.

Indeed, it’s important to belong. 

And especially for those with high abilities and/or multiple abilities, it’s also important to stand out and be different; to be who we really are.

The uniqueness that seems to be a barrier

to connecting with others

and to belonging,

is actually the ticket

to recognizing who we really are

and to making our unique creative contribution(s) in life.

Thus developing our individuality involves the complex paradox of

  • connecting with our uniqueness,
  • developing our gifts
  • AND SAM_0947following the lonely path dictated by those differences, interests and abilities
  • as well as connecting with other people. 

It’s easy to misunderstand our differentness for inferiority.

That’s what too many of us do, at least initially. We compare ourselves to others, notice the great contrast, and judge ourselves as inferior, especially when we possess one or more CASIGY™ characteristics such as creativity, acute awareness, sensitivity, intensity and/or high intelligence, and these characteristics separate us from our peers. Many CASIGYs have told me that they observed the differences between themselves and others their age, as early as preschool, and that it was at that time when they were three or four years old, that they concluded that these differences proved their inferiority.

CASIGY™ characteristics are not synonymous with our individuality; every person, with or without these characteristics has individuality.  Yet possessing multiple characteristics that are in the minority in a culture heightens the need for us to come to terms with and develop our individuality.

What if we could recognize these characteristics as being an engraved invitation to become more and more acquainted with who we are, and to accept ourselves in our uniqueness, with all of our foibles, mistakes and vulnerabilities as well as well as our gifts?

Is this too much to ask? to suggest?

Not often. Not often enough.

Certainly not easily. 

Civilization teaches us to pay attention to the culture, to listen to and see what others say, think, feel and do. It teaches us to give credence to others which often contributes to doubting ourselves.

Yes, it’s important to adapt to the culture we live in, enough to smooth our path through it. But not enough to hide who we are, to hide our inner light or to (heaven forbid) extinguish our inner light.

Three Little Monkeys: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No EvilIt can also be good to shelter young children from hurtful influences. This is one of the messages embedded in the traditional images of the Three Little Monkeys, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil.

It is also good, even important to open our eyes to what is going on within us and around us.

As we grow and mature, the sometimes necessary cultural messages embodied in the Three Little Monkeys may also lead us to cut off our observations and to stifle our voice.

Instead, I would like to propose that we turn this around, into what I call ‘Monkey Magic’:

“Monkey Magic:

We all know the “Three Little Monkeys, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil.

I’m pleased to introduce the Nine Magical Monkeys:

See what you see. Monkey Magic @Sharon M Barnes LCSW PLLC

Hear what you hear.

Feel what you feel.

Know what you know.

Think your own thoughts.

Say what you need to say.

Do what you need to do.

Be where you are.

Be who you (really) are.” [iii]

Fighting the DragonThis right to be as we actually are is what we all want, or say that we want.

But it comes at a price; often a great price.

Myth and fairy tale describe it in endless varieties.

The theme that underlies them all is that our disagreeable, unpleasant life symptoms are the (engraved!) invitation to the adventure of becoming an individual.

We can choose to refuse this call, or we can choose to accept it. Those who can’t or don’t accept it right away are in good company. Many a Hero or Heroine initially refused that invitation. Then, like the Children of Israel, they found themselves wandering in the wilderness, sometimes for decades.  (see Joseph Campbell, Hero With a Thousand Faces). Their experiences also can inform us that when we can and do finally accept this invitation, we may soon enter into the metaphorical deep, dark woods.  It’s usually not long until we also encounter metaphorical dragons.

This seems to me like a double bind – damned if we do and damned if we don’t! 

Yet it’s only after traversing the terrain hidden in the woods and facing the dragons that we can manage to find and unearth the buried treasure. And it’s still not over! We also discover, often to our dismay, that before we can bring the precious treasure we’ve found back to heal our own lives and share it with those in our communities, we have to return through those same deep dark woods, filled with more pitfalls and even more threatening creatures. No wonder we shy away and refuse the invitation, only to find ourselves “wandering in the wilderness”.

dragon+warrior sculptures-crested-butte-coWhat we don’t know, or we quickly and easily forget, is that it is only through this process of exploring and getting to know every inch of the metaphorical “Deep Dark Woods of Inner Territory”, that we develop and strengthen our ‘essential individuality’. 

No wonder Graham Moore got a standing ovation when he shared a bit of his story! We instinctively recognized that his victory came from much more than a decision to stay alive. It included that, and so much more.

As we cheered for him, we also cheered for ourselvesthat is, for  the parts of ourselves (for we almost always have ambivalence) that want the sense of having the right to exist as we truly and actually are, and want it enough to accept the current invitation Life has offered us and to go on our own Grand Adventures.

Yes, we want it even when we know that our Grand Adventures will take us into those Deep Dark Woods in search of our own buried treasures … because we want that Buried Treasure. 

At the same time, we don’t want it because of the difficulty and uncertainty of the trip.

And then again we do want it so we can heal ourselves and then bring it back to help and heal our communities.

So…where are you on your own Grand Adventure?

What’s your path like for you right now?

Do you know of someone who has received this metaphorical “engraved invitation” but misinterprets it as an indictment of inferiority and unacceptability? 

Let’s return to Graham Moore’s message to us all:  #Be Weird. That is, BE YOU in ALL of your Wonderful Weirdness!

And ….. if you’d like to have a Guide through this Wilderness of CASIGY™ Inner Territory, let me know. I would be honored to explore together with you the possibility of accompanying you, your child(ren) or teen(s) as you proceed on the path of developing your individuality, AKA, #Being Weird.

[i]http://www.jewishjournal.com/hollywoodjew/item/meet_oscar_nominated_graham_moore_hollywoods_newest_jewish_writing_prodigy
[ii] ibid
[iii] Monkey Magic © Sharon M. Barnes, LCSW, PLLC.   Monkeys artwork courtesy of Jo Freitag, www.GiftedResources.org