Many years ago, someone told me, “If you don’t think other people are weird, it just means you don’t know them very well.” We all have our own little idiosyncrasies. They’re what make us unique.
Although society may have tried to force us to conform to some mythical behavior deemed ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’, our real personalities leak out as we age, and thankfully, we increasingly give ourselves permission to be ourselves.
In the words of philosopher Bertrand Russell, “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”
Many people like to collect a specific item – such as cobalt blue medicine bottles – just for the fun of it. Stones, driftwood, leaves, seashells and pinecones are popular items artists collect to inspire their creativity.
Lots of us search for odd items that would mean little to someone else – teaspoons from around the world, beach glass discovered amongst the kelp and driftwood or mismatched playing cards we believe contain hidden messages. I have a small collection of glass and ceramic skulls to remind me life is short.
I’m certain my own touch of eccentricity comes from my heritage. My parents were Brits, who are known to be a little eccentric. I’m quite grateful for that. It’s a nice counterbalance to my studious nature.
I was both surprised and delighted to discover a society called The Eccentric Club, with its patron being (for quite some time) HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Although the focus of the club is on social events and charity work, the Eccentric Club’s website states:
“We believe that it is essentially important to highlight and celebrate the eccentricity itself, as it was understood by our predecessors – an innate ability to ignore the well-trodden routes of the others and invent our own original ways.”
The club promotes creative and original approaches. For centuries, it served as a meeting ground for many great and original minds, pioneers of thought in artistic, literary, theatrical, scientific, legal and political circles.
It provided a testing ground for novel and controversial theories and approaches. Some well-known eccentrics include Albert Einstein, Howard Hughes, Alexander Graham Bell and Emily Dickinson.
Psychologist David Weeks, author of the book Eccentrics, conducted research on eccentric people. He discovered they possess a number of similar traits, including being non-conforming, creative, curious, idealistic and opinionated.
They also possess a mischievous sense of humour and are happily obsessed with one or more hobbies.
He also learned that they are both happier and healthier than most other people – likely because they are unconcerned with whether society approves or disapproves of them.
Weeks says we can learn from eccentrics to “hold onto the dreams and curiosities we had as children.” Eccentrics choose to live life on their own terms, which is something we can all strive for. They can teach us how to nurture our own eccentricity.
Our quirks are personality traits. They’re what differentiate us from others. In marketing terms – they’re our brand. Apple computers created a brand around their philosophy that their products are for “those who have always seen things differently.”
It is seeing things differently, and imagining new possibilities, that moves life forward. We don’t want to act like we were born on an assembly line where we each emerge as a carbon copy of the ones born before us.
Can you imagine a world in which vanilla was the only ice cream flavour? We need a few nuts and interesting flavours in the mix. It makes life better.
Your difference is what makes you – you. We don’t all look alike or share the same interests. I see that as a good thing. It’s not just eccentrics who are unique. We all are. It’s just that eccentrics are less inhibited about expressing their uniqueness.
We need people who are willing to risk being different. Growth means change. We can’t improve while staying the same.
Societal norms have taught us to value conformity over authenticity. Change requires us to be willing to go against the grain. Innovation can be disruptive. However, we need new solutions to old problems.
So, take a conscious risk to do what rings true for you, regardless of any initial discomfort it may cause. Reach just beyond what you think you’re capable of. Who you really are has nothing to fear. We all have a story to tell. Let your quirks fly free.
What makes you unique? Do you collect anything unusual? Would you classify yourself as an eccentric? Please share your quirky habits in the comments below!