How do you know when you're being different for the sake of being different?


meggyfin
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Be Different printable watercolor art print from Etsy seller PrintPost
Be Different printable watercolor art print from Etsy seller PrintPost
I’ve been considering converting to a different religion for several years now, but there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head, saying I’m thinking about it for the wrong reasons…

I’ve been involved in various subcultures throughout my life. Often times I’m “different” because what I want and the non-traditional are both in line with one another. In the past, though, I’ve embraced certain things for the sake of just being different. It makes sense — the status quo rejects me as a queer woman, so I want nothing to do with it.

But in my quest to be authentic to myself, I have to wonder — whether it’s something as major as changing faiths, or something as minor as choosing a hairstyle — how do you know when you’re being different for the sake of being a “special snowflake” and how do you know when you’re just being you? And more importantly, does it matter? -Aurora

Any other rebels and offbeatniks out there wonder how to really know if and when you're being different just for the sake of being different?

  1. If your goal is to live authentically and be true to who you are, then I applaud you! That's a great goal, and I wish more people would strive for that. Whether or not a decision is true to you or different for the sake of being different is completely up to you though. Sometimes it's not a big deal if you can't tell the difference: buying that shirt, visiting that coffee shop, reading that book, etc. Other things, things that have a bigger long-term impact on your life, should only be done when you're sure about them. I would hope that anyone considering any religion would do a lot of soul-searching before committing to it, but I think you should also be sure of yourself before dating someone new, befriending (or unfriending) someone, getting a pet, etc.

    It sounds like you're not really sure who you are in a lot of aspects of life, and that's okay. Explore. Try new things. Journal about your reactions. Find a counselor you can talk things out with. Stop and check in with yourself often to see whether or not you're enjoying things. Listen to the nagging feelings and dive into yourself to find out the root of them. Remember that YOU are bigger than any single aspect of you.

  2. This literally doesn't matter. You have to wake up in your own bed every day. Make sure it's comfortable.

    Whatever you do, someone's going to give you shit for it anyway.

  3. I think we all go into it with what we feel at the time, and what ends up working for us will stick around. But if you don't try new things you can't tell if you'd like it. But if you force yourself to keep with something you don't like it'd most likely fall under being different to be different.

  4. Aurora, I hope that you can feel all the queerly love, encouragement, hope, and blessing I am sending you as you embark on a new faith journey when I say IT DOESN'T MATTER.

    You're just getting more amazing.

  5. The only way you can know if something is a good fit for you is to try it. If you feel a connection to a group or aesthetic or anything, and it makes you happy, then pursue it! I feel that's an authentic, genuine reaction. Likewise, if it doesn't work for you or at some point you need something new, leave it behind.

    I'm mostly in the "it doesn't matter" camp, except that I think if you're doing something simply for the sake of being weird, and not because it's what you truly want, then you might be being true to a perception of counter culture rather than being true to yourself.

    You are excellent. Happy adventuring!

  6. I think when it becomes more about the reaction/recognition you get from the thing rather than your own personal enjoyment of the thing, then maybe you've crossed that admittedly very vague line

  7. I saw a home make-over show years ago where the woman getting her home redone was all about zero carbon footprint and it all must be fair trade and organic.
    The host showed her some decor items and the first thing out of her mouth was always, "How was it made?!!?" He insisted that she needed to pick things that *visually* appealed to her and let *him* find the most environmentally versions of what she liked.

    Once she was freed of her self-imposed limits, she bloomed and had fun discovering what she really wanted out of a living space.

    You may not know quite yet if this shift in religion you're contemplating is something that's really calling to you or if it's just a rebellion from what you grew up with. If your current affiliation though isn't satisfying you/giving you good sleep at night, then by all means, go hunting for something that resonates with you. You don't have to completely ditch the old and fully embrace the new all in one fell swoop, dip your toes in gradually: go to some gatherings of your new religion option, chat with folks of that affiliation, take classes, read some books. If you can't get enough of it, if it makes your soul tremble with happiness (even days after your exposure to it), THEN dive in and convert.
    If it's more a social thing, you only go for the music/food/cute lady/etc, it doesn't really do much for you, makes you more guilty/unhappy than before, then maybe that isn't the path for you.

    I totally agree with what other folks were saying: go with your gut!
    What throw pillow patterns *do* you actually like? 😉

  8. I find that sometimes I'm attracted to something new, it may not be my love or passion but when I say "hmm this is kinda cool", sometimes I'm met with openly hostile reactions from my narrow minded surroundings. At this time I usually start down a spiral of legitimizing "the different". I usually end up feeling like I should be a cheerleader for the cause. Because I'm older, I have tough skin and I have no problems telling off my 60 year old ultra conservative white uncle's (they have an opinion about eeeeverything). Along the way I have to develop my opinion about "the different" and by the time it is done I have spent significant time weighing and debating and I often belive in it. In the end if you have to defend the fact that you are interested in something harmless, it's probably necessary that you do. Kind of like the feminist law: comments about feminism justify the need for feminism.

  9. To me the need to be authentic can just as much a trap as the need to be different for differents sake. Authenticity strikes me as something you do as a branding thing, making yourself identifiable with specific traits or values. It is great for a job or a blog, but gives unneeded stress if you constantly worry about how something is authentically you in every aspect of your life. Religion or lack of religion is about belief at its core. If you believe in the values of the religion and the way it connects with the higher values of the Universe compared with other faith, it's the right one for you. Religion doesn't need to be picked based on how it fits with the other things that define you.

  10. Recently, I had to pick a new color for my new office. I picked a ridiculously loud bright aqua … more on the green side than the blue. Opinions on the color from co-workers are firmly in two camps. They either love it as much as I do or want to stay far far away.
    Did I know that my choice was really weird and not what people would think of as a "normal" office color? Sure? Did I choose it BECAUSE it was weird? No, I chose it because it was the color I liked best and I figured if I was going to spend 35+ hours a week in a room it better be a color that I love.
    But even if I had chosen it simply in order to be different … well, what's wrong with that? As far as I can see it being different for the sake of being different is … different. So, it all comes back to the type of person you are to begin with anyway.

  11. I am going to approach this topic specifically. You mentioned wanting to convert to a new religion. I am Jewish and my mother and my husband (as well as many friends) are Jews by choice. Here are some suggestions from that perspective.

    1. Read as much as you can, read about the culture surrounding the religion, read about the rituals, read about the history.
    2. Find a group, house of worship and/or religious leader where you can experience the religion and ask questions.
    3. Live as if you are in that religion for a year. Experience all the life cycle events and learn as much as possible.

    While doing all of this does it feel good? Does it feel right? Does it feel like the thing that was missing was found? It may go against how you were raised but does that feel positive or negative? Sometimes there is a mix of things. My husband converted after he had children and had experienced Christmas with his children. Giving that up was difficult. But he also realized that he could still celebrate with his kids and be Jewish at the same time. Just like I go to my grandparents' house on Christmas and they came to my Bat Mitzvah.

  12. I have this conversation with myself sometimes. I also have it when I think back about my teen and 20s drinking behaviour, and how I did so many risky things because I didn't want to be seen as a girl, but one of the guys. But. So be it.

    Now, I find myself automatically detesting some things because they are trendy. When I catch myself, I say, try it if you like it and don't prejudge. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I just can't bring myself to. As a 13yo I hated Hanson, but then I "came out" and admitted I loved their disgustingly harmonised pop. Now I'm ok to admit whatever I like musically. I discovered black skinny jeans about 5 years later than most and I sometimes kick myself for it!

    But. There are a lot of good reasons for why I like the offbeat choices, the different and weird and strange ones. Those ones allow me to make up my own experience as I go. They lead to other people who are freethinkers and less cookie-cutter. They come with less sexism and racism and institutionalised bs. They're not perfect, for sure. But, they are usually to my taste because I know myself fairly well now.

    So long as I remember to think critically about why I make my choices, e.g. them matching up to my values and ethics, then I'm ok. And if I can't work out why I like it, chalk it up to instinct and hope for the best. It's ok to be wrong.

  13. I think we all go through periods in our life when we try on different hats so to speak. Even if we suspect they won't fit, it's not wrong to try.
    As long as what you're doing isn't making you uncomfortable, I don't think your motivation matters much.

  14. (I hope I'm not getting into this too late–I had no internet contact for nearly two weeks.) I see two separate questions here.

    1. "Am I being different just to be different?" If you would do the same thing regardless of the reaction, then no. If you feel uncomfortable doing something, but make yourself do it anyway, just for the reaction, then yes.

    2. "Am I changing my religion for the wrong reason?" I've known many people to change religions. It's authentic if you feel overwhelmingly called to do so. You couldn't resist if you wanted to. It's kind of like falling in love, only with a deity or principle. If you do it just to fit in with others, or to shock others, or for any reason having to do with others, it's not real. It's got to be a relationship between you and a higher power, and all the rest could fall away and it wouldn't change a thing.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.