There is a black sheep in every crowd, isn’t there? This person who just doesn’t fit into a place where they are expected to feel at home. Maybe it’s their family, sports team, classroom or church. If this is you, how do you deal with being a black sheep? Before I get into that, let’s look at what is a black sheep.
Tell Tale Signs of a Black Sheep
- People leave you out of conversations. This is usually because you’re either not knowledgable about the subject or not interested. It could also be because people “forget” to include you. Sometimes it’s just because you’re not around as often and don’t have the intel/gossip that others in the group have.
- Your relationship status is different from expectations of those in the group. This could mean you aren’t married, are gay, date a lot of people, don’t date at all, or choose partners that do not conform with the norm of the group.
- You’re line of work isn’t typical for the group. Maybe you’re an overachiever. Perhaps others see you as an underachiever. It could be that they view your job as not a “serious” job or that it’s “not work.”
- You go against your gender stereotypes. If you’re female, this could mean that you don’t want children, don’t rush to hold babies, don’t like “chick flicks,” or don’t get emotional. If you are male, this could mean that you don’t have a favorite football team, don’t drink beer, you do cook, and you get emotional.
- You often feel misunderstood.
- There is pressure to conform – this can come from outside or inside.
- You look different. Maybe this is due to physical characteristics, the way you dress, the way you do makeup, or the way you carry yourself.
- Your religious views are different from the people around you.
- You feel the need to keep quiet about aspects of your life so as not to invite inquiries.
- Your demeanor is different from others in the group. This could mean you are far more boisterous or perhaps you’re much more introverted. Maybe you are more confrontational when the group stresses creating harmony and peace.
So What Do You Do When This is You?
First understand that it’s normal for groups to have outliers. All things lie within the bell curve. Most will be very close to average. A few will be way outside of average. All things have this variation. You’re not weird. It’s totally natural.
Outliers are a gift. They are exceptional. They shake things up. This is a good thing because without infusions of energy, things get stale, predictable, and boring. Fresh energy keeps things growing and renewing. Your presence is a gift to the group. Those who are open to receiving the gift will benefit from your being there if you share yourself.
Don’t justify or explain your differences. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you like pistachio ice cream over chocolate. By the same token, you also must take responsibility for those choices. If we’re talking about living a high risk lifestyle, that’s still fine as long as you are willing to pick up your own pieces if it comes crashing down.
Be the change you want to see in your group. In other words, be tolerant and accepting of others. Engage with them. Respect them. Don’t force your values or way of life on them or judge them for not being like you. Be your highest and best self. Give them something to love and respect.
Set firm boundaries. Being kind isn’t the same as being a doormat. If someone offers you advice, it’s polite to hear him out. This doesn’t mean you have to accept it. If that same advice is hostile or disrespectful, you can let the other person know that that kind of talk will not be tolerated. If you do this in a way that is firm, respectful, and to the point, most people get it right away and back off.
Love Yourself. Remember when I said outliers are a gift? Love that juicy strangeness inside of you. Celebrate it. Some things are so powerful that a little goes a long way. Think about salt, tears, or love. If the world had a lot of you, it would just be overpowering. Nature is always in balance. It knows what it is doing. There are few of you because you’re special. Love yourself.
Find Your People. Just because you’re a rare bird doesn’t mean there aren’t others like you. Birds of a feather flock together because life is more comfortable when we travel with our own kind. So find your people. Someone out there “gets” you and will appreciate you in a way that those outside your groups can’t.
Being a black sheep isn’t always fun. When you don’t get acceptance or understanding from those you love and/or respect, it can make you question your worth. Don’t. There are a lot of people out there trying to be different because they already understand the value in standing out. If they try to be you and you try to be them, everyone misses the point. Just be you. Nature made you the way you are for a purpose. When you live authentically, you can help but serve your purpose.