Have you noticed how the most bad-ass adults felt like outsiders growing up? While it seemed tragic to be the high-school nerd, or that quiet goth kid, or whatever variety of weirdo you might have been, you must admit, it ultimately helped to grow your superpowers. Unbeknownst to you at the time, you were writing your heroine’s journey, complete with awkward beginnings. Here’s how:
1. You lived on the edges, where you saw and experienced life differently.
By definition, an outsider has a different vantage point on her world. How do you come to decide that you’re an outsider? You feel different.You were an immigrant, or gay, or one of those artistic kids.I have a friend who felt like a little alien from the time she was a toddler, while for me it really kicked in at puberty. The popular kids might have secretly felt like they didn’t belong, but their identity wasn’t shaped around it.
I had a high school crush on a boy who spoke to no one and hung out alone, literally on the edge of the school grounds. I romantically assumed this dark clothed, brooding figure must know things. When I finally had the courage to talk to him, it turned out I was right. He was smart, well-read, and sophisticated by high school standards. He also had brain damage from a car accident and was extremely self-conscious about the speech impediment which resulted from it. (I never saw him after high school but I’m willing to bet he grew up to be an amazing adult).
I’m counting myself and my dearest friends among these badass adults. How dare I? Because I get to define what it means: To see life as an adventure and one to be embraced as an experiment where we discover what it takes to know ecstasy, connection, and creativity. It’s not about the trappings of success or being defined by societal dictates of “doing it right.”
2. Because you saw life differently you developed an uncommon set of skills.
It wasn’t easy, but you spent years honing a completely different set of skills from the common, “muggle” sort they teach in school. You honed intuition and creativity, and dreamt what some called impossible dreams. You were something of an exotic plant.
My outsider story began when I was twelve and my family moved to the U.S. from Costa Rica. Not only did I turn twelve and move to a new country, but I also got my period all within the same week! I remember standing in front of my new American school that first morning, in agonizing self-consciousness, while all around me kids chirped and giggled in the non-sensical sounds of a language I didn’t speak. I felt as if I were naked, covered in tar, with bugs crawling over my entire body, while everyone watched. The irony is that I desperately wanted someone to see me and be my friend. I hid in a bathroom stall during lunch.
That tough, identity crushing period was painful, but it was also an initiation. It eventually opened me up to possibilities I wouldn’t have imagined otherwise. Part of the adventure was building up an identity of the misunderstood outsider, which I then had to overcome. How cleverly I was crafting my own story!
One skill I developed was seeing through double eyes. I became a hybrid of two cultures, learning from both, able to hold more than one point of view at the same time. It made me able to connect to people from all sorts of backgrounds–a much needed superpower these days.
3. Being in touch with your wounds and the darker realms of experience, you gained access to true power.
By true power, I mean power which can only be found through telling the truth and facing your pain, rather than the old paradigm of force or power “over” another. Whatever had you feel different, so much the outsider, even broken; whether you were born with extra sensitive emotional wiring, or went through a traumatic experience, these challenges were all potential doorways to knowledge.
Of course, when we are depressed or addicted, we aren’t necessarily thinking how great it is that this is an entryway to wisdom or creativity. But the possibility exists that through your wounds, you had an initiation and were given access to a broad range of emotions and sensations, highs and lows, and a keener ability to see into life, other people, and your own soul.
4. You came to see that your gifts were forged alongside whatever pain and wounds you carry.
In your deepest knowing you are magic, you are free. Something inside you always guided you to seek out deeper experience and knowledge, no matter the inner or outer obstacles. Whatever conventional success eluded you, this turned out to be a blessing because you had to get really honest about what matters to you, what truly turns you on.
But it didn’t seem as if you had superpowers until you discovered that hiding from your pain never resulted in the connection or creativity that you craved. Nobody asks for a dark night of the soul, or to sit face to face with the shame that causes them to sabotage their deepest callings. It doesn’t make for nice cocktail party conversation, but then you never cared much for small chat.
There is a pitfall here as many never see past the identification with that tragic story of the “broken” kid. These folks can stay addicted to the strange pleasure of victimhood or to self-help and personal development. And the story becomes boring and stale. But if they undertake the deep work to integrate the lessons from their wounds, then it turns out that the gifts are side by side with the wounds and there is a rightness to all of it, even if discovering so was extremely painful.
5. You decided to “fit out” instead of fitting in.
Joshua Rosenthal, who taught me about holistic nutrition and getting out of the matrix, talks about “fitting out,” which is admitting that you don’t fit in and you never will and that is well and good–and choosing to rock that. The all-you-can-eat buffet prize of having followed all the “right” steps, only left you with an overstuffed, numb feeling. You redefined success according to your own values and began to protect your dream from the dream killers who lack imagination and instead become pushers of fear through numbing entertainment and pharmaceuticals, who would convince you of your powerlessness, and leave you addicted to authority.
Paradoxically, once you embrace fitting out, there gradually comes a letting go of the identity of the outsider, the stranger looking in. While it would be easier to stay out there pointing in at all the absurdity of the “normal” world, you made the choice to find out what you’re truly made of, and to contribute in a way that is authentic to you–a new vision, large or small, but true to you and your gifts.
And so, you grew up to become the sexy rebels, innovators, artists of living, lovers of life, creators.
6. Your journey came full circle when you owned how much you have to offer the world.
You came to see that you are not truly separate, and indeed what you offer is needed by the larger culture. You’ve grown beyond the outsider box you once used to label yourself. Having re-written your story, you are free to contribute to the very world from which you once felt so estranged, and even to create a whole new paradigm.
You dreamer of impossible dreams, who started to awaken within the dream, thereby unlocking the keys to the Queendom. You know that you don’t need anyone else’s permission to live your wild and precious adventure.
Leading with desire and with every breath casting your spell, you have become the ones described by the inimitable Walt Whitman, “I no longer seek good fortune, I myself am good fortune.”