Embrace Your Oddities

One of the things we need to learn and embrace as creative human beings, is not being afraid to stand out from the crowd. It’s a very human reaction, isn’t it, to not wanting to be the one who protrude, risking getting everybody’s attention. What I am talking is not about being overly assertive or blatantly pointing the finger at ourselves, emphasizing how fantastic we are. No, I talk about not being afraid of who you really are and not hide that self behind the rest.

The thing is, we try so damn hard to blend in with the rest, being afraid of sticking out. Rather, embrace what is odd about yourself; be confident with your own skin. We simply need to find more self-confidence and embrace all those quirks and oddities that make each of us special. Because that’s where you will find your real artistic expression. You art will grow deeper and become more authentic if you draw the artistic expression from your real self, the one that you sometimes, or most of the time, try to hide.

Mind you, it’s not about trying to become different, but accepting what is already different. It’s certainly not about forcing some originality into your art. The desire to be original is actually counterproductive. When we hold on to such an idea as being “original”, we inhibit the creative process. In doing so, we are not creating anything original, but just trying to be different. By forcing ourselves to be original, we close ourselves down to what is, we see nothing with open eyes any longer, but apply a contrived and limiting approach to seeing.

Instead of thinking in words like different or original, I believe what is important is authentic. By embracing what is already different about you—and not trying to squeeze some originality out of yourself—and apply that authentic you into your art, will make your art authentic, too. Your distinctive, artistic voice springs out of what makes you as a person unique. Thus trying to blend in, will only silence or even choke your artistic expression.

So don’t be afraid of what make people smile of you or think you are odd. Those are your gifts, as strange as it may seem. Of course, I know it’s easier said than done. I for one have to fight this desire to blend in, not to be visible in the crowd. For instance, I know I am a pretty good skier, but I still don’t like to ski under or close by the ski lifts because there everybody else can get a good look at me. What if I did something really stupid and laughable?

It’s one of the many fears that so inhibits our art. Fear of success. Fear of not succeeding. Fear of lacking creativity. And fear of sticking out. We want to create original art, but don’t dare to stand out. We got to fight that fear. Rather than trying to create original art, we need to stand up for what we are and embrace our oddities.

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103 thoughts on “Embrace Your Oddities

      1. We-ell…..provided you still have good health! But no, even with poor health, there can still be plenty of good things 😊😊

  1. Great post, Otto! As an introvert who has spent much of her life trying to disappear into the wallpaper, it’s a bit scary to think of “putting myself out there” more … but you’re right that it’s necessary to take such risks if we’re seeking creative growth. In your honor I will try to approach at least one stranger in the week ahead and ask to take their portrait.

  2. For me, I think the hardest part about “being yourself” is trying to find out who you are without becoming someone you’re not. Like, I look around and I see (unique) people who I feel that I could be like and I’m tempted to want their originality, and mimic how they found their free-will. But in reality no one else’s originality can be mine. Our uniqueness is defined based off of what sets us apart from others, so how can we be ourselves without knowing what we’re not? Aren’t we–at least once in our lives–bounded to act like everyone else (or assimilate) so we know that we truly are not?

    1. That is a very philosophical approach, which I have to ponder about. But right off my head, I think we don’t have to assimilate to be able to see how we differ from other. But I think most of us do. And maybe its less important to figure out what is the difference, but rather just go with whatever you feel in your heart.

  3. I certainly believe this, Otto, and only wish I’d embraced this perspective when I was younger! I am afraid there was a lot of lost time! But it’s never too late. 🙂 Such an important message, and I thank you!

  4. I have to agree… it does get easier as we get older (and don’t care so much what others think)
    I like being different, sometimes 😉

  5. Sometimes we think we can “fake it till we make it”, but mostly people can tell immediately when we’re not being ourselves. And they tend to like and accept us much more easily when we stop trying to be what we aren’t.

  6. I agree with what you are saying here. I think, unfortunately, sometimes the “art world” is put out there with the idea that you have to be so different, and sometimes that runs to different just for the sake of being different without any true meaning behind it.

    1. Boy, do I ever agree with your statement. I see it a lot. it is sad that so many truly talented people in art, music, get overlooked because they are not “out there” enough. One of my teachers said, “The biggest conformity is non-conformity.i have watched ever since and find this to be true.

  7. I’ve struggled with this too, partly because I’ve done so much commercial work where I’ve had to do whatever the client wanted. My self expression wasn’t the point. At this time in my life I’m not doing it for clients and I’m having getting so much more out of the process. Long time ago someone told me that my style was in the things that came easily — which goes against a lot of my thoughts and efforts, but there’s truth in that saying too.

    1. I have struggled in a same way, because when I photograph for clients, strangely enough they often don’t hire me for my photographic vision, but because they want me to execute what they have in mind. Always a struggle, isn’t it.

      1. I knew an art teacher that I had who was commissioned to do a “couch painting’ a painting that goes over the couch. That is what the client got, a painting of a couch. Quite the statement. Don’t know if the client was ticked off or not but I do know it would not have mattered.

  8. Wonderful post! Thank you for saying this so well and reminding us all to embrace all the uniqueness about ourselves.

  9. Hallo zusammen 😉
    Nice article once more 🙂 What to say?… all depends on immediate Environment and close circle, region where you are living since childhood, and their dreadful popular beliefs, for Millenia.
    People often expect from us that we all join into the “group spirit” and learn how to live as part of (their) community. Hell No!… some of us were not born to follow…and following the pack.Have you ever been told:”oh you! you are not like us!” said with a mischievous grin or not.
    Even if it hurts hearing that… in different life situations especially in the past, I just don’t care… in the end.
    As often said: we are all similar as human beings But! we’re all special; we’re all unique in different ways. One has to accept that’s the way it is … once for all.
    “Fear of success” …you are so Right! Otto 😉
    Because to me, all depends on “Mental conditioning” exactly related to what I commented above.(we were sometimes or often “under pressure” from others and for too long).
    Enjoy a great day anyone 🙂

    1. You are very right. Too often we are pressured into be like everybody else. But each and everyone of us are indeed unique individuals. Thank you for the poignant comment, Solveig.

  10. Well said Otto. This is a concept we all wrestle with from time to time. What’s more important: being liked and successful, or being true to yourself? We have to be true to ourselves. You can’t fake being someone that you are not. Being true to ourselves means launching ourselves into the unknown and letting our eye lead us to what brings us satisfaction. I am always grateful that deep within my psyche there are maverick tendencies. I’ve always been an independent sort of person, who doesn’t like being told what to do. It’s been quite helpful photographically!

    1. It does help to be a person who doesn’t like to be told what to do, doesn’t it. And you question is right to the point: What’s more important: being liked and successful, or being true to yourself?

  11. I love the photo of the woman. She has personality written all over her. Friendly, outgoing with a healthy sense of self. As for myself , I try to be authentic, with sensitivity to others. I don’t need to be so loud I blast everyone around me and not so much into people-pleasing, either. Now I am getting older; losing my sight, my hearing and mobility and can see when others get irritated. It happened the other day with an acquaintance that was talking at me facing away from me as she rushed ahead because she needed to get to the next place. At first she was people-pleasing, because I had told her to go on ahead, then I could see and hear her irritation because I couldn’t hear her or understand what she was talking about, and could nor keep up with her. Tough! I just told her to keep going, she didn’t need to wait on me, or for me. I would see her next time.I would walk by myself. I wasn’t enjoying her company anymore anyway. After she rushed off, I enjoyed myself again, walked along the river valley with my camera, at my pace. I definitely have a little bit of “Maxine” in me.( a star character in a comic strip).more grouchy and I don’t necessarily hold back-little tolerance for B.S. Happy shooting!

    1. I think what you experience is something that happens to all of us, in different ways and shades. And it’s not always easy to keep up a gentle response, is it… As for not needing to blast out loud, it goes back to authenticity doesn’t it. If all you seek is attention, then it feels contrived and certainly not authentic. Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience, Jane.

  12. i’m not sure that i have a choice… i’m weird, and there is nothing to be done about it lol…. i know what you mean about conformity tho… i run a facebook page, with cute pics of doggies… and people will wait for the first comment of ‘cute’… then a couple others will say ‘cute’ ‘cute’… then someone will venture to say ‘precious’ and a couple other ‘precious’ people will follow, and i will consider myself lucky to get a ‘cute and precious’ brave comment lol

  13. If you need a bland semblance of an article stating some trite commonplace in order to grant yourself that extra iota of freedom and authenticity, then you’re just another sheep in the herd. Period.

  14. Authenticity. That’s a marvelous approach, Otto. As a youngster I lived a life that was so diametrically different than other kids I knew. I was horrified by my family, by my face, by pretty much everything about myself.
    Fortunately, I grew up and grew into that authenticity and have learned to embrace it…most of the time. However, I still struggle with being seen with a camera. That device conjures so many subliminal messages…artistic, creative, accomplished….I feel none of those.
    That is why I have learned to embrace my iPhone. I love the anonymity of that device. I blend into the crowd and no one expects much of my results. And sometimes I even surprise myself.

    1. The cell phone has changed photography in so many ways and in so many levels. As to embracing authenticity, I think at a younger age most of us would rather be one of the crowd, but as we get older we not only more easily embrace that we or other people are differently from others, but start to appreciate the difference.

  15. For me, this was the heart of your piece: “It’s not about trying to become different, but accepting what is already different.” Of course, that presupposes that we know ourselves well enough to know what nourishes our life and what doesn’t: what gets our juices flowing, and what leaves us bemused or bored. More than a few philosophers have pointed out the importance of self-knowledge. Once we know — and value — ourselves, being ourselves gets much easier.

  16. As I young adult who still struggles with finding her identity this post shed some light on my path and made me think that it’s okay to not be seen by others as normal and it’s okay to be myself , and to erase fear from my decision-making, which always ends up in not doing something due to fear

  17. So many times I’ve been told I am eccentric as if that’s a derogatory remark… but I embrace it and say thank you! When i was much younger I fought hard to fit in although I never did… Fortunately, as the years went by the more comfortable I became in my own skin and now the last thing I want to be is one of the crowd!. Great article, well written.

  18. “Rather, embrace what is odd about yourself; be confident with your own skin.” Sometimes we are so consumed with what’s normal, that we make ourselves unhappy trying to get there. I fought for years trying to be what is considered, normal, and still missed it. When I started to make myself happy, I stepped out of that box and reached what I needed to get from life. Embracing our differences is so important, and especially important for our children. I love this article!

  19. As someone who is lost alot of years being a caretaker to both my mother and father before they died in 2017 and 2016, I can say for certain that I struggle with this. Trying to figure out who I am and what I like, and what I’m like without wondering if it’s ok for the rest of the world.

  20. Thanks Otto,

    Embracing our oddities, being original and authentic are all too often conscious thoughts. This dampens our oddities, normalises our originality and impacts our authenticity.

    Consciously embracing our oddities is the first step to becoming genuinely original and authentic in our writing. Now we need to try to forget that you have embraced it and continue to be to unconsciously authentic but write without limits nor worry for judgement.

    – Luke

    https://yourlifeyourstory.wordpress.com

    1. Consciousness about authenticity does distort it or bleach it. So it’s a fine balance between accepting what we are and not thinking too much about it. Thank you for the poignant input, Luke.

  21. What a fabulous post! Isn’t it amazing, you are such a super photographer who loves sharing his talent and art and yet you don’t like standing out in a crowd. Gosh aren’t we silly! don’t get me started on myself 🙂

  22. To stay happy and becoming more productive one has to embrace all the oddities of your life.Its also keep you more judgmental towards the tough stance.
    Nice article.

  23. How true, Otto, you are spot on! Recently I was walking around town trying some “outlandish” things with my superwide-angle lens. Got some interesting results, indeed it’s good to jump out of your comfort zone (photographically, anyway) occasionally, but then I thought I needed to take a few days to live with them and see if i felt comfortable with them being a part of me. Well, not really. As you say, don’t force anything. Above all, Maintain Your Own Integrity in photographing. That doesn’t mean never experiment, never try to develop; it means don’t force things, i.e. don’t be what’s unnatural for you. That contrived trendy stuff that’s out there — I was going to say that’s not art, but I don’t want to start a philosophical scuffle. 🙂

    1. Trendy is often not very authentic. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t evoke something in the audience, but is does have to come from within, from one’s real self. Thank you for comment, Nancy, and for sharing your experience.

  24. Authentic – that is a perfect word to use, and perfect advice! That image is fantastic, and could turn even a Scrooge’s snarl into a smile!

    Perhaps for many (like me) it takes time to develop one’s one voice and to find confidence in what is bubbling up from the soul — and not listening to critiques from others. It’s good to have critiques, but they can also send a sensitive person into a tailspin – ‘why try?’

    I well remember a carpenter once asking, ‘Miss Lisa, you’re NOT going to put that wallpaper in your kitchen are you?” Having experience w/colors, I could see the end result, and he was only seeing the rolls of dark blue paper with extremely vivid stripes. I stood firm, and when the entire kitchen was all finished, it was stunning..

    I credit my faith in my own choices to exhibiting in shows long ago.. where in one show a painting wouldn’t win a thing, and in another the same painting might win best in show or people’s choice. Learning to have thick skin is important – and then critiques are embraced!

    now i’m ‘fearless’ and take pride in being authentic – if that’s what feels right, and it’s infectious!

    excuse me for rattling – i read all of your posts and always love them – though internet continues to be a big hurdle.

    1. Thank you for sharing your poignant view on this issue, Lisa. And it’s absolutely not rattling but all very wise words. I think it takes time for all of us to find that artistic voice and become confident in that so that we can stay authentic to what we are. There is no saying what the world around you will think about your artistic work, so the only thing you can do is create something that is true to yourself. But yes, it takes time to overcome the need for rewards and positive feedback from the rest of the world.

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