Did you ever encounter the following or a similar situation?
Somebody comes to your home and wanders through your rooms and suddenly encounters something unusual – like a huge collection of DVDs, a collection of lovely handpainted tabletop gaming mini figures, a ton of plastik movie or fantasy monsters, a little army of robo warrios or a flock of pink ponies. And then this person starts giving you or your wife/husband strange looks and starts asking inappropriate questions. And by inappropriate questions I mean questions that are not meant to give the person who is asking a better understanding of why you collect your little treasures, but questions with a biased subline in them. These short conversations could go like this:
“Why do you have all those toys lined up there?…. Are you one of those people who dress up in the woods and run around with plastic swords?”…Giving you strange looks.
“That’s cosplay what you are talking about. What’s wrong with cosplay!?”
What the visitor really wants to say is that what you are doing is something people usually don’t do and therefore your hobby is strange or you are some kind of freak.
This can be especially annoying if they do not ask yourself, but one of your loved ones – thus indirectly saying: “What’s wrong with him/her?”
In order to understand why people act with this kind of prejudice you have to take a look at the mindset of the person asking.
Definition of a “norm”
People who frequently ask those questions under these kind of circumstances are usually people who have a strong inner need to follow society’s rules of being a functional working unit that does not stand out: They go to school, make their grade, go to work in the morning, come back in the evening, build a house according to regional conventions, wear colours and clothes society expects them to wear, choose their children’s schools according to the schools their surrounding would choose, teach their children a mindset which lies within the commonly accepted parameters.
The lizard brain
The foundation for such a behaviour goes back to when we were organized in tribes. We did not want to stand out. Standing out – or even worse – being a trouble maker meant we would get thrown out of the tribe. Getting thrown out of the tribe meant we wouldn’t find food. Finding no food meant we died.
The region in our brain which is still responsible for these old programs that were essential for our survival 10.000 years ago, is the amygdala – the so-called lizard brain.
It tells us not to stand put, to stay in our place, not to change the status quo. Among triggering our fight-or-run-reflexes it tells us that it is a good thing to be like all the others. Seth Godin writes a lot about that.
A life driven by fear
People who give you these strange looks are people who do not want to stand out. And they judge you in a negative way based on their set of rules. And their set of rules is defined by the conventions of the society they live in. What most of these people do not see is that those conventions (implying the schooling systems and job mechanisms) were designed by generations of people living in an industrialized world with the purpose to keep the mechanics of production and consumption running.
Those conventions play hand in hand with our beforementioned lizard brain: Don’t wear strange clothes or say things people don’t want to hear or you will be fired. Get fired and you won’t find another job. Find no job and get no money, get no money and you will die!
Don’t get me wrong. It is more than ok for me if somebody chooses to live this kind of life. After all I can understand it and according to their parameters it is a good life. I even encourage people to do so if it is what they really want to do. Nobody should feel bad if he/she is not the most creative or risk-taking person in the world nor a bestselling author as long as they are happy with it.
How to deal with this kind of situations
What’s not ok, on the other side, is if a norm judges those who do not follow the lifestyle they have chosen for themselves. Those people cannot understand why somebody would have the inner urge to write, draw, paint, go into a hall with 10.000 people and dress like a Jedi, play Warhammer 40K, sew caps with bats on them, collect and arrange plastic movie monster toys or enjoy a discussion about whether Smaug in the movie “The Hobbit” is really a dragon or “just” a wyvern. 🙂
And here is the way to deal with those people and their kind of reactions to your interests and way of life: Be gentle, explain it clearly and shortly – thwart them if necessary, but don’t force them to understand you, because in most cases they won’t be able to relate to your passion. But that´s ok.
At the end – if you are a painter, writer, filmmaker, cosplayer, any kind of creative person or someone with a very developed fantasy muscle and therefore have your very special view of the world and are probably into things which are not the norm – it does not matter that they do not understand the things you do, because you are not doing this for them.
Not everbody has to understand you. If it were so (if we were all the same) the world would be a very boring place.
You are doing your things for those who get it, those who care about – those who follow you … and yourself.
It feels good not being norm.