Inspired by Fighting With My Family, this week’s Wellbeing Matters looks at doing the things we’re sometimes a little worried about doing.
Hello and welcome to Wellbeing Matters. This week, we’re thinking about what makes us different, what makes us unique. In a world of mass production, certain standards are held up as gold, as aspirational. It drives fashion, commerce, entertainment. We seek solace in the known, in the communal.
But does this mean we lose something of ourselves? We are also individuals, with our own strengths and weakness, interests and vulnerabilities. Our lived experiences help shape who we are, what dreams we hold. Freak is one of the earliest insults we hear in the school yard, and it can be tempting to shy away from admitting to anything that may cast us in this light. But should we?
The beauty of difference was illustrated in a lovely way in the 2019 film, Fighting with My Family. The girl from Norwich with her piercing and heavy metal t-shirts, a dark blossom amongst the sunshine tans of Los Angeles. Wondering how to fit in, to conform, before realising that what makes her spark is her difference, her uniqueness. Florence Pugh was wonderful as Paige, all angles and awkwardness, self-awareness and suspicion.
There was a smart reminder in the film too, that those who may seem to have it sussed, to have the perfect tan and smile and hair, may not always have it as easy as it seems. There may be hidden issues behind the smile, but game face has to go on to get through the day. Perfection is a veneer that is easily chipped away.
People often react in a startled manner when confronted with something outside their experience. A first instinct may be to put it down, to query its worth. Want to build a thirty-foot Lego Stormtrooper? Why in Hades would that appeal, some will ask. But thinking about it, about the precision, the art, the skill and the joy of creation behind it, then it may just shine a light on something another person has always wanted to do, that someone else has just never considered before.
Like write a book about an unusual childhood experience. They may love to make shadow puppets on the wall with their own histories and tales to tell. Wearing a suit through the day doesn’t stop you being a storyteller of an evening, and beyond.
So, what is there hidden inside that you worry people may think is freaky? Or is it on the outside, painting your skin with glorious tattoos that tell your own story, but may have excluded you from others? What really is being freaky? Is it wanting to wrestle and fight and box, or is it telling stories, expressing yourself through art and music that maybe isn’t mainstream, but reflects a hidden part of you?
Embrace the odd. Stand up on the ropes, take a deep breath and echo Paige’s words when she won her first wrestling title:
‘I am a freak from Norwich. I have dreamt of this since I was thirteen years old…[this title] belongs to anyone who ever felt like they were the freak from Norwich. The oddballs, the outsiders, the ones that don’t belong. My name is Paige, and this is my home now.’
Embrace your inner weird ambition, your penchant for Tuvan Throat Singing, or rainbow hair. Equally, embrace your normality, your love of fast fashion, stadium rock and gorgeous makeup. There is no right or wrong way to be. Just be open minded on both sides, when meeting those that differ from your own norm.
We’re all Paige from Norwich. And this house is ours.
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