Being Unique: or Just Plain Weird, Whatever…

This week I learned a few things about myself. I am not judgy, I accept things that I now see others may have difficulty with.

Am I naive? No.

Live in a religious bubble? Nope.

Have my head stuck in sand? I don’t even like the beach.

I guess I just see things differently than others. While I may not agree with another person’s decisions on how they choose to live religiously, or perhaps their sense of fashion, or what they eat or don’t (like Vegans), I don’t look down on them or think my way is the BEST way…unless we are talking about my kids.

I took this excerpt from one of my posts on my business blog (which I neglect to keep current – but the articles are really good) because the message is important:

“There was a time in college when all the ladies in the dorm decided to go on the cabbage soup diet.

A few points to keep in mind. We were young. We were stupid. We stank up the joint. Besides cooking lots of pots of soup, each apartment was making their own version, there was the after effects of eating all that cabbage.  There was not enough air freshener in the world to mask what was going on.

What I learned from the cabbage soup phenomenon?  Don’t always do what everyone else is doing.”

girl bulliesAs an adult, of course I see the need for each person to self-express, and that’s whats makes us interesting. At my most recent book-club meeting a topic came up about bullying and I was shocked that the majority of women, all ages represented, NOT including myself were bullied as children at one time or another. I’m not tooting my own horn but I saw people and still do, as just people. Whether it was the boy who ate seaweed in 5th grade, the teenager with Downs Syndrome who came to the high school event, my college roommate of color, or the current neighbors with the nose piercings. All these people have parents, who love them. They all have mouths with which to communicate, they all have their own ideas about what looks nice, what tastes good and what art is.

But what I found surprising is what happened to those kids who were bullied, meaning how they turned out. Low self-esteem, adolescents who turned into adults with clear PTSD and are even shocked when they are liked for just being themselves.

I took this even one step farther, not just as a student, friend, or neighbor but as a parent of a child who was clearly bullied for being different. As a mother, it was difficult to watch my child grow up without friends because he was labeled “weird”. What the other children and worse the teachers failed to understand was that he suffered from SPD, Sensory Processing Disorder. When he couldn’t deal with the annoying noises a pencil made or the way a material felt when it accidentally rubbed against him, other people saw this as a behavioral issue and often got him sent to the principal or singled out or made fun of. He was isolated in a way that a mother like me couldn’t understand. In my mind, EVERYONE had some issues, be it a lisp or a stutter or a limp…I never understood why these kinds of people needed to be treated any differently, or if they did, in my mind it was to be extra sensitive to them and make MORE of an effort to be friends with them. As a mother I saw that he was bright and cute with a nice smile and had just as many Hot Wheels as the next kid. Sure I also saw the meltdowns and fits of rage when he couldn’t deal with regular things, like the smell of ketchup, but perhaps I overlooked what the rest of the world saw.

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Life is unfair and unkind that way. We are often challenged to be unique and special but then are confronted with fitting the mold. Each society and culture has their own model, I just wish there was a way we could create a Utopian society where we all agree that being different is okay, within the expectations of our own community and family needs.

Maybe I like the ‘weirdos’ because I am so plain. I keep it simple. I like to wear mostly black. I eat copious amounts of unhealthy food balanced by a really great salad once in a while and exercise only when I feel guilty or jiggly. I’m the average height for a typical Jewish woman. I’m sometimes funny, mostly thoughtful, and basically care about friendships, family and the environment. Nothing about me stands out as far as I know. If I had to choose one thing about myself that would be ‘weird’, and only because of this most recent dialogue among bright, intelligent, successful women, is that I am overly sensitive to other people. Sadly this is a unique trait. That most people are NOT like me in this regard is what I find most disturbing. Let’s try to be better. I know I always say that. I truly mean it. Let’s be kinder, more patient, and understanding to ideas or people who seem different than us. Are you with me?

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