On Being A Misfit

Misfits sometimes spend a lifetime searching for somewhere to fit in—a group of people, a place, a lifestyle that feels like they finally found their home, the one that welcomes them with open arms. This can be nearly impossible because there are a limited number of ways that we are all the same and an infinite number of ways we are different. There are even differences in our similarities. We may all want to be loved, but by whom and in what way do we want it to be expressed?

To fit in, one has to focus on what one has in common with others. People who have found their niche in this world have found a way to make that connection—in spite of their differences. They focus on an interest, a goal, a belief, a cultural identity that they share with others. This coming together can create a powerful force that is greater than its individual parts. But the danger lies in the tendency to suppress or denounce any and all differences. In extreme forms, differences are demonized.

Misfits are more aware of the differences. They have trouble accepting conventional views and simplified either/or explanations, and instead, see life as filled with paradoxes. Misfits are the trailblazers, the ones who push beyond boundaries in an attempt to find new answers because the old ones are not working for them. But if the feelings of alienation become too strong and painful, if blame is then placed on oneself or others, there can be a destructive lashing out against oneself or others.

The challenge for all of us is to find a way of connecting with others while embracing our differences. But it is well worth the effort. Our strength and our successes are built on a fluctuating blend of cooperation and contrast.