When I cancelled our cleaner for the third time in a row, I knew something…
How to Find Your Home When You Live at the Fringe of Several Different Worlds
Do you feel you live at the fringe of several different worlds that just don’t mesh?
And how do you handle this? Do you sometimes try to hide a part of yourself so that you won’t be cast as an outsider? Or do you perhaps take the risk and own your ‘weirdness’, accepting the fact that not everyone will like you or even get you?
‘Fight or flight’ stereotyping.
A couple of days before I left my job in New Zealand to relocate to Australia, one of my colleagues, let’s call him David, invited me out for lunch. We had a good work relationship and had had many nice chats in the office. But we had never actually had a private conversation before. Our catch-up turned out to be quite revealing. David, a landscape architect, talked about some of his personal beliefs and spiritual views.
One idea he mentioned, which I found fascinating, was the power of visualisation, and how envisioning what you wish to achieve will help you manifest results. (This conversation happened in 2005, shortly before this concept became mainstream and gained popularity.) David added that he was extremely careful about sharing his ideas and experiences because he didn’t want to be seen as a lunatic, especially in a professional environment. The fact that I was about to leave the company made me a safe audience.
In some regards, David was hiding a part of himself at work, and I know many other people who still do. I really can’t blame them for that. However, I’m personally inclined to own my eccentricities, even when it doesn’t make life easy.
I’ve always had a broad range of interests. During the years when I worked as an environmental design consultant, I had a particular interest in human psychology, ethical marketing, and people-centric design. It was clear to me that listening to our clients attentively and connecting with them on an emotional level, beyond sending them a checklist of guidelines which they were supposed to follow, would lead to better results for everyone.
Put simply, my solution to many of the challenges of my profession was to treat people like people. Not surprisingly, in an engineering environment, I was quickly labelled a hippie. Ironically, a couple of years later some of these colleagues started to passionately advocate the importance of love, caring and belonging in the context of their work.
Going against the stream.
We already live in a complicated world. So, putting people into familiar boxes, perhaps based on their professions, interests, or their spiritual or political beliefs, can help us make better sense of certain situations. And in the age of personal branding, many people design the box that they want you to put them in themselves. They paint an easily relatable, consistent picture of themselves which can be summarised in a few simple words.
At the same time, the world is increasingly recognising that we are all unique, highly complex creatures. Out of curiosity, I recently had a look at the 25 most popular TED talks of all time. Out of all these talks, I found that at least 17 touched on the complex (and often irrational) nature of human beings.
Nevertheless, even in today’s climate, when appreciating and respecting differences is becoming the norm (at least in the context of business), living at the fringe of several worlds can be difficult and often frustrating.
Because you see the world differently from those around you, it’s not easy to make yourself understood. You might have a whole vocabulary that would help get people up to speed with your thinking, but you can’t use it because in your current environment no-one speaks that language. When you see a problem or solution that’s obvious to you, others may not see it, just like fish that can’t see the water they swim in. So, you often find yourself alone with your opinions and question whether you belong.
The world needs you.
The good news is that if you see yourself as a misfit, you certainly have a place. Your presence can be a blessing where change is needed:
- You’ve probably experienced a lot in life and been through some tough challenges, which have helped you become a strong, courageous, resilient person.
- You’re likely to be exceptionally empathic and tolerant, and also great at resolving conflict. With your colourful history, you’re able to relate to people from different walks of life.
- You view things from a unique perspective and see opportunities and solutions that most other people can’t see. (Do you see some parallel between the two stories at the beginning of this article?)
- You’re probably a highly creative person. Creativity is about combining two existing thoughts in a way they haven’t yet been connected, and your whole life is about bringing several separate worlds together.
- Thinking outside the box should be your second nature. What box are we talking about anyway? You’re definitely not living in one.
- You make a natural leader. You’re not afraid of taking the unbeaten path, and you don’t have to have anyone ahead of you to follow.
- You probably own a unique niche. After all, it’s the intersection where great things happen in business.
Well, with these statements I’ve just put you in a box, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me!
Before you go.
After making all these statements, it might not sound very humble of me to say that I have my feet in many different worlds. I’m Hungarian and I’m Australian. I’m a business owner and an employee. I identify with being a designer, researcher and coach (among other things). As a child, I used to juggle between maths competitions and dance classes, and these days I’m still equally interested in science and art.
Here’s my two cents for you …
Please remember that if you find it hard to fit in, you’re not alone. But fitting in is not what you’re destined to do. Shutting down a part of yourself in order to be accepted, giving yourself a hard time for hitting walls, or judging yourself for being an outsider won’t help anyone.
You have a mission. Speak. Write. Build bridges … When you accept the ‘red pill’, the path won’t be easy, but through the difference you make by sharing your gift, you’ll find true belonging.
Celebrate your ‘weirdness’ and you might start to notice other ‘outsiders’ celebrating with you.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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