“Artists need to be outsiders in order to really view what’s going on. That little bit of detachment has been great for me… As artists, we have to be brave. If we aren’t brave, we aren’t artists.”
Writer, Producer, Director Paul Haggis
Haggis is speaking from the perspective of a creatively accomplished adult: His films include Quantum of Solace; In the Valley of Elah; Letters from Iwo Jima; Casino Royale; Million Dollar Baby; Crash.
But this experience of being a misfit, mutant or any number of other names for outsider, can be distressing or downright painful.
Especially as a teen – but at any age if you have not yet found a path to express your talents and gain a healthy level of self esteem, or don’t connect with others as much as you want.
Jane Austen wrote in Mansfield Park (1814) about one of her characters:
“Everybody around her was gay and busy, prosperous and important; each had their object of interest, their part, their dress, their favourite scene, their friends and confederates: all were finding employment in consultations and comparisons, or diversion in the playful conceits they suggested.
“She alone was sad and insignificant; she had no share in anything; she might go or stay; she might be in the midst of their noise, or retreat from it to the solitude of the East Room, without being seen or missed.”
In addition to feeling invisible, many high ability and creative people may feel they are “aliens.”
This is a clip from the much longer Social-Emotional ACES Webinar video by Sharon Barnes, Therapist for Sensitive and Gifted – see the video on her site page about her HSP-GT-2E Social-Emotional ACES Program – a “Social & Emotional Empowerment Program.”
She comments, “In my counseling office talking to people face to face across the room and as I’m at my computer connecting with people around the world, I hear so many people who feel discouraged and feel like a misfit, like they don’t belong because of their characteristics.”
In an article on her site, she expands on this idea:
“Many creative, sensitive, intelligent and/or gifted youth and adults feel like misfits, or as many have expressed, like aliens from a different planet.
“Although they may have learned to camouflage or try to hide it, they may carry within themselves a deep sense of inferiority and inadequacy, and may have concluded that they are defective in an irreparable way.
“For many, having an awareness of being profoundly different than others and then drawing a conclusion that “I’m defective” can come as young as ages 2-5 or even younger ? at the very time that the foundations of the Self are being constructed.
“All too often this can evolve into a secret sense of alienation, and is often accompanied by anxiety, depression, anger, rage and a plethora of additional distressing emotional states. This eventually can lead to despair and deep discouragement.”
She includes in her article how people “can cope, heal and transform their perceived deep defects into their greatest gifts which, in the end, will enable them to make a unique, creative contribution to the world.”
Read much more in Different By Design by Sharon Barnes.
Author and MIT professor Junot Diaz [The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao] commented in an interview about being an outsider as a child:
“I can’t imagine anybody who ends up being an artist who didn’t pass through a time of geekiness.
“I was, as a kid, really obsessed with reading. In the neighborhood I grew up in, that was about as geeky as you could possibly get. …
“I think that the intellectual life is amazingly lonely in a country like ours.”
He notes his main character Oscar has interests that “guaranteed him an enormous amount of isolation, being interested in science-fiction, being interested in fantasy…
“But I think that probably what is more problematic was that he was a kid who couldn’t find it in him to pretend to be something he wasn’t.
“And that was something I always kind of admired about Oscar as protagonist.
“I knew that I couldn’t myself personally risk the censure and the ostracization to be so honest to myself… anyone who has ever been a kid knows how deep loneliness can go.
“Part of where I get the writing from is being honest about what childhood was like.”
[From Bostonist Interview bostonist.com; photo from his Facebook page.]
Writer Anne Rice admits in an interview that she was “a bad student, I daydreamed in class, wrote stories in my notebooks. I learned the basics, but most of my active intellectual life was outside of school.
“It was acutely painful because [my sister and I] felt different, like misfits. Our individuality was almost irrepressible, but I wanted to fit in.”
Anne Rice’s books have sold nearly 100 million copies, placing her among the most popular authors in recent American history.” (Wikipedia)
Photo: Anne Rice at a book signing – from her Facebook page.
Actor Jessica Chastain “struggled academically” in high school, according to a profile.
“She was a loner and considered herself a misfit in school, eventually finding an outlet in the performing arts.” (Wikipedia)
She has said, “I’m not the girl at the club on the table. I’m going to be the one in the corner, quiet and so I don’t call attention to myself.”
Another quote: “I was the girl who cut school to go to the park, and the other kids would be smoking and drinking and I’d be reading Shakespeare.”
From article: Jessica Chastain and High Sensitivity.
[Photo: Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane (2016) from Facebook.]
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PhD [author of The Gifted Adult] notes in her article Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time that “Contrary to stereotyped beliefs, large numbers of gifted adults are charismatic, popular, socially adept people who are known as extraordinary leaders and valued friends.
“However, many also share a history of chronic feelings of loneliness… Yet many gifted adults are not popular, have few friends, and struggle to gain a sense of belonging.”
Screenwriter Anne Meredith (Bastard Out of Carolina; Cavedweller etc) commented in our interview about the value for her:
“My sense of being an outsider got worse and worse through my adolescence.
“Or better and better. It helps me work in Hollywood, because I’m not intimidated by anybody, and it helps because I have a kind of innocent way of looking at things.”
Being weird and eccentric
Robert Downey Jr: “A lot of my peer group think I’m an eccentric bisexual, like I may even have an ammonia-filled tentacle or something somewhere on my body. That’s okay.” (imdb)
One of my related articles: Being Eccentric and Creative
“I love the concept of rebel.” Alicia Keys
“I hope I’m becoming more eccentric. More room in the brain.” Musician Tom Waits
video: Nonconformity and the Creative Life
and more – of course.
Some related posts: