“Weird” by Olga Khazan: The Perks, The Pitfalls

In the tradition of Susan Cain’s Quiet and Scott Stossel’s My Age of AnxietyAtlantic staff writer Olga Khazan reclaims the concept of “weird” and turns it into a badge of honor rather than a slur, showing how being different — culturally, socially, physically, or mentally — can actually be a person’s greatest strength. Publisher of Weird

Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by journalist Olga Khazan was released on April 7th.

In a recent article in Vox, Khazan says about herself, “I may be weird, but that’s a kind of normalcy I’ve come to enjoy.” It all started, she writes, as a child of Russian heritage growing up in Texas.

Expounding on “the perks of being a weirdo” the author notes that creativity is often a trait of the weird (The Atlantic). Some excerpted quotes:

An unusual childhood is not the only thing that can make you more creative. Being considered “weird” in your culture can also enhance an element of creativity called “integrative complexity.” People who are strong in integrative complexity tend to handle uncertainty well and excel at reconciling conflicting information. They’re often able to see problems from multiple perspectives.

In fact, people who don’t fit neatly into a particular group have been found, over and over, to perform better at outside-the-box thinking. 

…(T)rying to think about your weirdness in a positive way—a process called cognitive reappraisal—can help you cope with the adversity that often comes with being an outlier. Reframing what makes you weird as being what gives you strength can, ultimately, make you happier.

Selected quotes from reviewers of Weird:

Bookpage:

Let your freak flag fly. There is pride in being a weirdo, in not fitting in with the rest of the pack—along with isolation, loneliness and myriad other emotions, both good and bad…Though we are often taught to celebrate what makes us unique, “being the only one of your kind is doable, but wearying.”

The people Khazan interviews all take wildly different paths…Some people choose to embrace communities of like-mindedness, and some choose to remain different, and all these pathways come with new complications and considerations.

There is nothing simple about being an outsider. Khazan celebrates the power of the weird banding together, such as when people who are unique offer a boost of creativity or the minority voice challenges the status quo. But she celebrates these benefits without glazing over the hardships of being an outsider—the ways loneliness and isolation can have serious mental health effects, or the gritty hardships of finding partners, work, friends or places where you can be yourself.

Publishers Weekly:

Khazan casts a wide net on who is considered weird, including those who go against expectations, those who are transgender or live outside of gender norms, and those with physical differences not considered “normal,” such as dwarfism.

Lori Gottlieb, therapist:

Almost everyone who walks into my therapy office thinks they’re somehow different—or, yes, weird. But in her funny, personal, and always surprising book, Olga Khazan turns that feeling into a hidden strength. Chock full of fascinating research and real-life stories, Weird is both comforting and addicting, and a celebration of the power of our own uniqueness.

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