Let’s face it, we’re social animals – fitting in has always been an important part of our biological evolution and indeed, our very survival. But most of us aren’t entirely ‘normal’, at least not on every spectrum. What’s more, I’d argue that deep down most of us feel different in some way, yet how often do we actively own our own particular freak factor?
For most of my life I’ve felt different. I have a good brain but it works in strange and unusual ways. For example, I have very poor eye/hand co-ordination. I’m often bumping into things and constantly sport bruises. I’m easily overwhelmed by too much external stimulus. Planning and organising my thoughts can be challenging. I have real difficulty with deductive or logical reasoning. I have an extremely poor memory, especially for details and I’m easily distracted. There’s more but that’s enough for now!
Some years ago, prompted by Kate and my Beloved, I had an assessment done, thinking that maybe I was dyslexic. Turns out that while some of my symptoms fit with dyslexia, it is likely I fit with a diagnosis of dyspraxia, which is a neurological developmental disorder sometimes referred to as ‘clumsy child syndrome’.
This was a watershed moment for me, as it finally gave a name to my experience. It made sense of a cluster of behaviours, instead of me just seeing them as my many and varied inadequacies.
Most importantly though, it offered me permission to stop trying to be like everyone else and start the ongoing process of accepting my good, but strangely wired brain, as it is.
Let’s be clear: I still feel like a freak. I sometimes don’t know how my Beloveds put up with me – losing things, turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time, forgetting key details of conversations that were had not that long ago. But the harder I work at doing it like everyone else, the worse things get and the worse I feel about myself, as I try to be something I’m just not wired to be.
Fortunately those that know and love me also appreciate just how hard I work to overcome this and are constant supporters of me just being me – even wired strangely. (Thank you Kate).
The recurring Aha! is that there are also upsides. I have a brain that soars. It comes up with out of the box ideas. It makes strange connections between concepts that others may never spot. It can be truly brilliant! But it can only do this when I’m prepared to own my freakiness and stop trying so hard to be like everyone else.
Because each of us is unique, I think we all have some kind of freak factor i.e. anything that stops us from being mainstream. I also know that because of the biological pull to fit in, most of us work harder than we should to contain or minimise our freak factor.
In doing so, we diminish both ourselves and our contribution. We are all wonderous collections of strengths and potential flaws. But sometimes those things we, or others, see as flaws, are the foundation for our own particular brand of genius.
I’m hoping that as you’ve been reading this, you’ve been thinking about your own special freak factor. I know you know what it is – you’ve been living with it for many years by now!
An important transition at midlife, and the foundation of a delicious second half, is integrating and owning all the parts of us including those we love and those we haven’t yet fully embraced. So from one freak to another, I urge you to seize the day and embrace your freak factor!
What’s your freak factor and what gifts does it offer you and the rest of us? Comment below or share with us on Facebook.
Share the Wisdom – one of the wonderful aspects of The Ripenists community is that our stories inspire action in others. If you can think of a Beloved that struggles to own their freak factor, please share this with them.