The following is an exclusive chapter from James McCrae's forthcoming book, "Sh#t Your Ego Says: Simple Strategies to Overthrow Your Ego & Become the Hero of Your Story." For more information visit www.shityouregosays.com.
High school was hard. Not so much the classes -- the classes were easy. The hard part about high school was navigating the rules and expectations of an opinionated teenage microsociety, and doing anything possible, including great leaps of effort and imagination, to not under any circumstances do or say anything that would constitute the unshakable label of being weird. Being stigmatized as weird in high school is a death sentence (or at least solitary confinement). So I did my best to look like everyone else, and everyone else did their best to look like me. We were all hiding, with each other and from each other.
The teenage years are sensitive years and high school insecurity I understand. We are still growing into ourselves and trying to map out our place on the spectrum of social relationships. Mistakes are inevitable, but are better made in private, far away from the spotlight of the hallways, lunchroom, or -- God forbid -- school dances. High schoolers are allowed to be nervous wrecks, afraid their own shadow will make fun of them if they trip and fall. But it should have ended there. After high school, when we grow into well-adjusted adults, shouldn't the crippling need for peer approval go away? My high school years are long gone but the social pressure to conform to the expectations of others is as strong as ever. Everyone, it seems, both young and old, is still afraid of looking weird. This broad insecurity misses a basic point. It's okay to be weird. Weirdness usually is, in fact, potential strength waiting to be harnessed. Throughout history, the best and brightest among us, the great creators and innovators, have been those willing to stand out and risk being perceived as weird. When I allow you to be you, and you allow me to be me, without judgement or criticism of each other, we are free to harness and grow the strength of our respective differences. Everybody is weird and therefore nobody is.
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." -- Oscar Wilde
It's okay to be weird. Here's why.
1) There is no such thing as normal.
Personality exists on a spectrum. There is no right or wrong place on the spectrum. The idea of being objectively normal was created to sell products and political agendas. What is normal for me may not be normal for you. When we chase the normal we lose sight of the natural. Natural is the new normal.
2) What you think is weird is really your super power.
We all have traits -- physical, intellectual, emotional, etc. -- that make us different. The Ego says that differences are flaws that should be hidden. The truth is that what makes you different is your superpower. You just haven't learned how to harness the power yet. Instead of hiding your weirdness, learn how to use it. Your shyness, for example, might make you a better listener. Your awkward laugh might make you endearing. Our quirks, when we master them, contain great power.
3) What makes you weird makes you memorable.
When you try to fit into somebody else's mold the results will be mediocre. Nobody pays money to see the expected; they pay money to see the captivating. Your true self, by its very nature, is captivating. People won't remember the thing you did that everybody can do, but they will remember the thing you did that only you can do.
4) The world needs more authenticity.
In a world where conformity is the easiest option, authenticity is in high demand. Deep down everyone wants to be more real, but we are all afraid to be the first one. When you start living as your true self, weirdness and all, you give permission to those around you to do the same. We might not say it out loud, but everyone wants to see your honest self. We are starving for realness.
5) All great art was made by weird people.
Every great creative breakthrough -- artistic, musical, scientific, etc. -- by definition is weird because it introduces a solution beyond the existing paradigm. and requires a new way of thinking. Embracing your weirdness gives you a new perspective, and the world needs a new perspective. Innovation does not happen within the status quo. Innovation happens when outsiders challenge the status quo with weird ideas.
6) Resisting your weirdness makes you dark.
Everyone has unique characteristics. Allowing ourselves to express these unique characteristics makes us feel good. But hiding our unique characteristics, and resisting our natural self, makes us feel less good, and makes our personalities darker. Just like a black hole results from the absence of a star, so also the resistance to our unique qualities, however weird, results in a dark and inverted projection of self.
7) Standing out is how you find your tribe.
Many people who conform do so for fear of being lonely. But standing out will not make you lonely -- far from it. By living honestly you will discover others who align with your weirdness. This is your tribe. When you stand up and live according to your purpose, you will find those who have stood up before you, and you will serve as inspiration for those who will stand up next.
8) Everything original seems weird at first.
New ideas, like biological mutations, on first impression appear to not fit in. But, as time passes, biological mutations, just like new ideas, find a purpose that was not expected. Eventually the mutation is replicated and contributes to the evolution of the species. Ideas are the evolution that pushes society forward. What is weird might not be understood today, but by tomorrow it could be the new norm.
9) When you own who you are the world will conform.
When you see yourself as capable, others will also see you as capable. When you see yourself as incapable, others will also see you as incapable. There is power in self-perception. When you stop fitting in and start standing out, it can be uncomfortable, at first. But when you take ownership of your actions, and ignore the fear of criticism, the world will, to the degree of your conviction, adapt to your perception of yourself.
HuffPost's GPS for the Soul app is based on two truths about human beings. First: We all have a centered place of wisdom, harmony and balance within us. Second: We're all going to veer away from that place, again and again and again. What we need is a great course-correcting mechanism -- a GPS for the Soul -- to help us find our way back to that centered place, from which everything is possible.
Because no one knows better than you what helps you de-stress and tap into that place of peace inside yourself, it's important for you to create your very own GPS guide -- a personalized collection of whatever helps you course-correct. Email us at GPS@huffingtonpost.com and we'll set you up with your very own HuffPost blogger account to share your guide on the site. If you're already a blogger, we encourage you to upload your personal guide today. We can't wait to see what you have to share.