This blog was originally published in Jaunty's September newsletter.
By Eric Waisman
When you own it, some strangeness can impress and intrigue.
Look around you. Most people do their best to conform and fit in...like it's a good thing. But when it comes to being memorable or attractive, blending in spells certain death.
When I studied abroad in Israel, I joined a group of 500 students from all over the world, all excited to establish our places socially. In the first few days, cliques formed and a few beautiful, alpha females and loud, good-looking alpha males, started rising to the top of the social hierarchy. When the alphas got together, they wore tight shirts and used very loud (sometimes drunk) voices. Meanwhile I tried to meet people across all different groups to see who I liked.
I had accidentally enrolled in a Hebrew language class that was way too advanced for me. Instead of learning basic words, this class was already working on advanced storytelling. I felt like an alien. I ended up saying really weird phrases, but owning the fact that I probably sounded ridiculous. This may have come off as independent and creative, I have no idea. Interestingly, I started getting a lot of attention from the other students.
On the weekends, I sometimes disappeared from the group as my cousins showed me around Israel. As I got immersed in the culture, I started dressing, talking, eating, and acting like Israelis. I'd come back to the group, tanned and full of great stories. They listened, eager as I shared tips about the best hotspots around us. I was unknowingly leading, and I started holding very strong eye contact, which Israelis are accustomed to. For an unknown reason I also started to use darker humor.
I quickly realized that almost everyone wanted to hang out with me, including the alpha females. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I was just exploring, experimenting, and doing what was interesting to me. It turned out my being a bit different was interesting to a lot of other people too.
Think back on some of your first few weeks at school while you were growing up. How did you establish yourself socially? What would you do now to either be yourself or try to fit in? Think about the kids you admired in your schools and what they did to stand out. Now I urge you to celebrate your quirks rather than hide them. Have fun expanding and exploiting what is uniquely you. Now, go and be your weird self.