Identity and creating – aren’t we all freaks or outsiders?

Rashida Jones has noted, “I am very light-skinned and I don’t look like I have a black parent… I’d show up to a casting and the casting director would be visibly relieved and would tell me: `You don’t really look that black at all’…

“I used to take it personally but not any more. I used to leave auditions furious, thinking, `How dare you tell me I’m not black? How dare you try to tell me what colour I am? Now I think, “So what!”  [The Voice, 31-Aug-2004]

[A pianist and singer as well as actor, she earned a BA in religion and philosophy at Harvard, and is the daughter of Peggy Lipton and Quincy Jones.]

She advises: “Be friendly to everybody; protect yourself; people sometimes want a piece of you for no good reason; and always do things out of love not fear.” (imdb)

Lady GaGa said she “felt like freak” in high school, and creates music for her fans who want a “freak to hang out with.”

She admits it took her a long time to be okay with how she is, and get beyond needing to fit in, or be like everyone else – “but not really” wanting to be…

“Sometimes you don’t feel like a winner, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a winner.”

From video: Lady Gaga Interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Aren’t most of us who are unusually sensitive, intelligent and creative more at home with other ‘freaks’ or feel like we don’t belong in mainstream society?

James Franco had a role in the tv series “Freaks and Geeks” (1999) and said it echoed his own experience.

“I was a little freak, a little geek. High school was a big party the first couple of years, but that gets old, so I broke away and just was a loner. I did a lot of painting, and I was a member of a local art league.”

[From post James Franco on being a loner.]

Ethnic identity

Painter Laura Molina says on her website, “I feel the need to assert my identity in the most militant way possible…

“As an educated, native-born, English-speaking, fifth generation Mexican-American and a feminist, there is almost no reflection of me in the movies or television, which is almost as bad as being stereotyped.”

Vin Diesel said when he was young, he was upset by the physical differences among his family members. He felt like a misfit. “I was like a stray cat. I needed to get my identity in place. I needed to feel complete.”

“As a kid, when I played a character, for a brief moment the parameters of my identity were clear,” he said.

“I could climb into a character and be absolutely certain about who I was. …

“Acting doesn’t make me happy. It’s not designed to. Acting is my job. It’s what I need to do to feel complete. It’s the reason I know who I am.”  [Parade Magazine, Feb 26, 2006]

More social pressures

But it isn’t just a matter of self-concept; there are social pressures that can make defining our identity difficult or at least complicated.

How we identify ourselves, and let other people define us, can have a deep impact on our self-concept, self-esteem and our creative expression.

Actor Tilda Swinton says she is often referred to as ‘Sir’ in elevators and other places. “I think it has to do with being this tall and not wearing much lipstick. I think people just can’t imagine I’d be a woman if I look like this.” …

“I’m basically interested in identity, and I still find fascinating the question, “How do we identify ourselves, and how do we settle into other people’s expectations for our identity?” [ bio]

Creativity coach Dave Storer, one of the contributors to the book “Inspiring Creativity” writes that “most people in our culture will not let you easily claim a creator’s identity. They will push against you and demand ‘proof’ of your creative talent.”

He counsels to keep working at your chosen project anyway, and over time you will become comfortable with your identity, because it “comes from the doing of it.”

[From my article Identity and Creating.]

Related :

Self concept / self esteem articles

Actors on building identity

Building identity – Rashida Jones on the creative value of her mixed ethnicity

Identity quotes etc

Hélène Muddiman on building identity – inside the “Skin” of a composer


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Comments (7)

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  1. Aren't we all freaks or outsiders? by @TalentDevelop #creativity

  2. Douglas Eby says:

    Casting director said: 'You don't look that black'… I used to take it personally but not any more. Rashida Jones

  3. Liz says:

    I’m reading the second book of a trilogy which is, in many ways, about being out of place and being unable to fit in. In this case (the book is “I Promised You Daisies” by Robert A. Benjamin) it’s a super smart person, whose giftedness was not acknowledged, who never feels like he fits in, and the difficult life that results. The book invites you to share, as the people above do, the experience of being different.

    • Douglas Eby says:

      Thanks – this sounds like a very meaningful book. On the author’s site (link below – “being different”), he writes “it never occurred to me that I might be anything but a perfectly ordinary boy growing up… It did not occur to me that I could read things, imagine things, converse about things, make things that were beyond the reach of those other children. Can’t everybody do that?”

      Link to Amazon for “I Promised You Daisies” by Robert A. Benjamin.

  4. Douglas Eby says:

    "Sometimes you don't feel like a winner, but that doesn't mean you aren't." Lady GaGa

  5. Identity and creating – aren’t we all freaks or outsiders?:

  6. Douglas Eby says:

    Lady GaGa says she "felt like freak" in high school – just like a lot of us.

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