Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan

8. Comfort with Discomfort

  • Here are stories of a liberal professor in a conservative town and a Muslim college girl at a school with few other Muslims. The Beatles showed that by conforming at first by dressing alike and singing mostly love songs. They were able to become nonconformists after they became popular. Norms do change. One example is interracial marriage. People didn’t approve of interracial marriage until there were lots of interracial marriages. It’s a good idea not to care what other people think about you and parents need to prepare children to feel comfortable even when they are the odd ones out. It can be painful not to conform unless you can showcase your individuality.

9. Better Than the Rest

  • Here we meet Michele Roberts, a black woman who became the first female director of the NBA’s Players Association. She was one of few blacks in every school she attended and used a tremendous work ethic to outdo anyone who doubted her. Rather than being demotivated by ignorance and prejudice, she found it excited her and pushed her to achieve. People who don’t fit in often resort to extremes of hard work and see themselves as imposters as they need to work harder to get by. Olga herself is no stranger to the imposter syndrome. Not fitting in can ignite a drive to stand out in a positive way and we find that norm-breakers are often overachievers.

10. The Big Picture

  • As we continue with stories from Olga’s interviews we learn some coping skills. The first is to consider intellectualizing your situation. This can give you a healthy distance from a problem. Think about your problem in the third person. See the big picture. If you are in a foreign culture it’s a good idea to put some effort into understanding it. If you are uneasy with strangers try interviewing them. Focusing on making things better for others can help make your life better. It may be difficult to infiltrate cliques with who you don’t share life experiences. If this is the case try to find other outcasts who may be more welcoming. Don’t worry about what other people may think of you and work on controlling what you can control.

11. Change Yourself

  • The are five traits that makeup personality: extroversion, openness to experience, emotional stability, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Research suggests that personality is flexible and can be changed. Therapy can help with this process, although it is possible to change yourself if you understand what you are trying to accomplish. Having friends is important when it comes to social anxiety. Here Olga reveals her own efforts to change with the use of the app called Joyable. It features weekly calls with an unlicensed therapist and Olga seems to have made progress with its help and lessons mentioned elsewhere in this book. She still has some social anxiety, but at least she has some tools to manage it.
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