The term “outsider” seems to have such a negative air to it, doesn’t it? Like you’re on the outside looking in.
Like you’re just there yearning to belong inside that room, where you hope to be welcomed with open arms.
I wish to offer a different perspective, though.
As someone who grew up feeling like I never belonged anywhere, I tell you this: fitting in is overrated, we are meant to explore the great perhaps.
So, if this list resonates, and you do feel like an outsider then I hope you treat it like an opportunity rather than a liability.
Listen, as cliche as this is, you were not meant to fit in, you were meant to stand out.
Here are 9 traits that just might prove that.
1) You question the status quo
You’re the type of person who questions the status quo, which can create friction with a lot of people. Aren’t you aware by now just how comfortable people are with the status quo so long as it doesn’t inconvenience them?
To go against the grain could be a very isolating decision. To question why things are the way they are could be a lifelong endeavor and not everyone is in for the ride.
And not everyone is meant for that ride either.
2) You don’t follow trends
Let me preface this by saying that there is nothing wrong with trends—if followed in moderation and intention, of course. And that’s the tricky part.
How to look, what to buy, how to act, where to go, the next shiny thing to fall over. Etc, etc. These aren’t inherently bad, but it’s an exhausting slippery slope trying to keep up. (And some trends are also bad for the environment, fyi.)
Trends appeal to our insecurities. It appeals to our need to belong, to fit in, and to be relatable. The problem lies when being trendy is chosen over being genuine.
And if you’re someone who prefers not to follow trends, you have probably been at the receiving end of raised eyebrows.
3) You’ve made career choices that aren’t for the faint of heart
Years ago, right out of graduation, a then-friend told me, “What? You studied Communications at university just to become a makeup artist?”
I took full offense, besties. Full offense.
Ultimately, I didn’t end up being a makeup artist, but I did still become a full-time artist. And let me tell you, it’s not for the faint of heart. I got a lot of pushback from people.
Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Heck yeah.
Don’t get me wrong, despite all the struggles I had in establishing myself as an artist, I understand the privilege of even being able to make that decision.
It’s an unconventional decision after all. One you probably understand if you’re reading this and resonating so far.
And even if you’re in a routine job now (we all need to eat, besties, and there are bills to pay) you have probably thought about “unconventional” career decisions like that.
Additionally, if you were brave enough to say them out loud, people around you must have given you unsolicited advice against it.
4) You’re daring, creative, and innovative
“Whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation but through daring.” – Henry Miller, American novelist and short story writer
It makes sense to lump these three traits together: Daring, creative, and innovative. Magic happens if you’re audacious enough to believe in its possibilities.
Innovation begins outside of your comfort zone, it’s why only a few would dare to.
It takes audacity. It takes creativity. It takes grit. To be the pioneer of anything, you must first be brave enough to step forward even when no one else would.
The pressure and passion of creation are something that a lot of outsiders carry. There’s an urgency that lives inside those who dare to create and innovate.
This isn’t something that everyone will have or even understand.
5) You exist (or try to exist) at your own pace
Peer pressure? What’s that?
Kidding aside, existing at your own pace is a special kind of bravery. Why? Because there seems to be this invisible ladder that we’re urged to tackle.
There are milestones to accomplish left and right (which we will talk about at the end of this list) and an empty shelf just waiting to be filled with the achievements we have yet to have.
And if you choose to deviate from that, to live life at your pace, to follow no scripts set by those who came before us, there WILL be people who will not understand it.
There WILL be people who will discourage you from this path. There WILL be people who would want you to fail, too.
6) You are the black sheep of the family
“Do not cringe and make yourself small if you are called the black sheep, the maverick, the lone wolf. Those with slow seeing say that a nonconformist is a blight on society. But it has been proven over the centuries, that being different means standing at the edge, that one is practically guaranteed to make an original contribution, a useful and stunning contribution to her culture.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.
Ahh, classic. The black sheep of the family. The harbinger of chaos during family reunions. The one who made all the questionable life decisions.
The one there that is strictly for vibes or disappointment. Or both.
Or so they say, at least.
It’s difficult not to feel like an outsider when you feel like you don’t belong in your own home.
I choose to see it differently, though, and I offer some perspective. I see the black sheep label as an opportunity to shift gears, to discontinue old family patterns.
I see it as an opportunity to end generational traumas. To venture beyond what’s comfortable and safe. To reject old beliefs that no longer serve us.
7) You’ve been called weird or odd
You might have even been bullied for it. When the lines between novelty and too different blur a little too quickly.
We live in a society where being different is taken as permission for mockery. We live in a society where opposing beliefs receive confusion and ire—sometimes even hate.
You might have even experienced this firsthand. This is not a nice feeling. The judgment, the stares, the whispers under their breaths.
It’s difficult not to feel like an outsider during these moments.
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being the odd one out is that there are others out there who know how it feels.
And if you’re lucky and willing to look for them, you will find these people who will embrace all your weirdness. And if you’re extra lucky, they will help celebrate it.
“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.” ― Robert Fulghum, True Love
8) You have very niche interests
The internet has proven to me that niche interests are only niche because of geography. If you care to look hard enough, you will find like-minded people.
That process does take some time though, and sometimes depends on luck and willingness.
Meanwhile, as you indulge in your niche interests, those around you do not understand it. Or refuse to.
When you don’t have anyone to share your interests or your hobbies, the joys and struggles that come with it, it could feel isolating and disheartening.
9) You’re at a different point in your life than your peers
Lastly, you’re always at a different point in your life than your peers. And frankly? Same.
Social media has led me to believe that I am a failure, with all the glitz and the glam and the milestones that everyone else is achieving.
It’s difficult not to feel like an outsider during these times.
But as I hope I have come to explain, outsider is not a bad word.
Outsider signifies the place beyond the confines of four walls—whatever those four walls happen to be for you. Expectations? Society’s standards? Peer pressure?
For so long we have thought of a certain trajectory in life to be the only path forward, as in studying hard, graduating, finding a job, getting married, having children, advancing in your career, getting a house, and living the way society intended.
But these milestones? They should be suggestions. They shouldn’t make you feel bad for not having XYZ or being XYZ at a certain time.
That’s absurd and frankly, unnecessary pressure.
You can choose to live at your own pace. Find where you’re the most honest with yourself. The most at home, the most at peace.
To be an outsider is not to look outside in, it’s to look beyond. It’s to look for what’s out there.
And didn’t you know? The world is so vast and it is waiting for you.