Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Are You So Weird That Nobody Knows What To Do With You?

Weird has become the new cool.

Thanks to the simplicity of creation, the ubiquity of connection and the disappearance of permission, our culture is fetishizing authenticity and sanctioning individualism. Escaping the normality trap has become our country’s national pastime.

It’s never been easier or more popular­­ to be yourself.

Which I can’t help but applaud as a lifelong nonconformist.

The challenge is, uniqueness is a binary construct.

The idiosyncratic part of us wants to be different and stand out and let the colors of our craziness bubble to the surface so our freak flag can fly high. And if people don’t get the joke, they’re dead to us.

But the pragmatic part of us needs to be mindful. Because if our goal is to get through to people, we don’t want them to see us as terminally unique. Different is good, but we don’t want to be so impossible to classify that our audience drops the mental ball.

Meanwhile, there’s an interesting pattern going on. Spend a few minutes scrolling the headlines and streams and news feeds, and you’ll quickly sniff out a layer of narcissism underscoring this recent surge in weirdness.

And that’s when the questions start to arise:

Are we proud of our identities, or are we turning personal narrative into a religion, disappearing down the rabbit hole of our own mythology?

Are we making a meaningful impression others, or are we crafting a personality that’s intellectually overwhelming for people?

Are we unconventional in the right direction, or are we so far out of the box that there’s nothing left for people to lean against?

Look, from an identity perspective, I know it’s not easy to let our edges show. We all want to belong. We’re all searching for people and places that embrace the weirdness we have to offer.

But when it comes down to our individual interactions, high stakes moments when we’re sitting across the table from someone trying to earn donations or get a date or win a job, we can’t neglect their cognitive wiring:

A confused mind never buys.

There’s a fine line between purpose driven human uniqueness and a patchwork of weirdness.

We need to be weird, but not so weird that nobody knows what to do with us.