The outsiders

One angel fish swimming away from school of angel fish

Ive been thinking a lot lately about the bravery that’s involved in standing out and being different. Maybe its not brave for some people, but for me it sure feels that way. This is an ongoing challenge for me, because when I reveal that I communicate with angels I’m instantly identifying myself as different. And that’s not something I’m comfortable with.
The desire to fit in and blend in is a long-held safety mechanism for me. 

It goes back to primary school when I was bullied, which is when I learned that being different was a weakness, and consequently made you vulnerable. My strategy was to put my head down and hide as much as possible in the hopes no one would notice me. This was the genesis of the crippling shyness I am still occasionally shackled by (although I’m working hard at ensuring that I don’t let it hold me back as much as it has in the past). Even though this was decades ago and my safety is no longer at risk, that lesson, and the terror that encases it, has stayed with me. I know that there is no actual danger in owning my spiritual side, but still, I struggle with this. Another contributing factor is that I grew up in conservative New Zealand, where anyone who doesn’t fit the married-with-2.4-kids-and-a-white-picket-fence-in-the-suburbs model (and doesn’t want to) is regarded with some suspicion.
Instagram is littered with a trillion inspirational quotes urging us to be ourselves, to be who we truly are, to own it, to Be yonce (whoops, that doesn’t really belong in there, but it seems wrong to delete it). Case in point, this gem: ‘Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?’ Trite but true. And yet...
Red poppy standing out above yellow poppiesI’m acutely aware that what makes each one of us different is a key ingredient in our recipe for success. Last year I attended a discussion with Karen Walker and Mikhail Gherman (of the fashion label Karen Walker) about being outsiders and how they used that to their advantage. They said they didn’t go against the grain with their designs because they saw a gap in the market – they did it because it was who they were. They couldn’t do or be anything else.
This morning at the gym, among a sea of Lululemon singlets and sleek yoga pants, a guy strolled onto the treadmill with lime-green hair (like, tennis-ball colour), lollipop-pink socks up to his knees, and blue and white polka-dot shorts. At first I thought he was ridiculous, then I checked myself and realised that his non-conformity was something to admire. My initial discomfort was a response to my own fears about standing out. Which have nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me.  
The more market stalls I do and the more widely-read this blog becomes (which I’m told is destined to happen, eeek!) the more I’m going to have to own my spiritual geekery. Which means standing out. Which is terrifying. What I find interesting is that even though I know the worst-case scenario (so I might get judged by people who arent open to spiritual concepts... so what?!) isn’t actually that bad, the stranglehold that Fear has over me is still very strong. Unravelling that is going to take a lot of time and self-talk, I suspect.  Luckily being different is a vastly less dangerous now than it is in those merciless primary school years. I just have to keep reminding my subconscious - the part that wants to protect me - of that.