You Are Not Broken — A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are

“…Spend a life time being called weirdo, freak or crazy for being smarter, more creative and more perceptive…eventually you figure out that it’s not you that’s broken and you can not make your light dimmer to make others more comfortable and be your true self. I got past the anger years ago. I don’t need strategies to cope with accepting what I am or even that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I think, possibly, that I need strategies navigating a world that doesn’t want smart, perceptive and creative me…”

(photo by Patricia Palma, Unsplash)

Like the blog reader above, you may have been called weirdo, freak, and crazy because you were and are smarter, more creative, and highly perceptive.

But here’s the deal.

These days, they can no longer afford to reject you. They need you, whether they know it or not. It is no longer a question. It is no longer debatable. The planet needs its smart, creative, perceptive, sensitive people. You know this. I know this. It is obvious.

I realize there are still many humans all over the globe who are afraid of the creativity, insight, and innovation you bring. Who may even be afraid of the empathy and intuition you embody. But that is just too bad for them. It must no longer stop you.

YOU can no longer be afraid of yourself. YOU can no longer reject who you are. YOU need to recognize you are a perfect cup of tea, even if some refuse to drink. (If that sounds impossible, read my posts on therapy!)

And then. And then, it will be much easier to find the humans who appreciate and love you and to step away from those who don’t. I understand that stepping away is not easy. These may be family members, coworkers, neighbors, politicians; people you have to interact with. But there are ways to set and maintain boundaries. Ways to limit your exposure to difficult people. Ways to communicate effectively. Ways to vote them out.

And finding the people who get you? I am not saying you will find dozens of adoring fans. Although, even that is possible. I am just saying that there are a lot of shining lights out there. Right? They are reading this blog and buying my books! They are part of the Puttyverse. Members of silent book clubs. Dancing the Argentine tango. Fighting climate change. Running for office. Building a business. Writing books and music. Running nonprofits. Healing the wounded. Demanding justice.

They are scrolling through Instagram looking for you.

So, a strategy for navigating life in a world that may still think you are a weirdo, freak, and crazy? Well. They need you more than you need them. Right? So, find your other weirdos. Join your fellow freaks. Find your purpose(s). And, if all else fails: Break open. Break through. Break dance.

And to quote Pink in her song Just Give Me A Reason, “…we’re not broken, we’re just bent…” and “we can learn to love…”


To my bloggEEs: So, my little chickadees, how are you learning to love yourself? How are you setting boundaries with the people who do not realize just how amazing you are? What are some strategies you are using to navigate in this world? How are you letting your light shine?

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

49 responses to “You Are Not Broken — A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are”

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  1. You Are Not Broken — A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are – Witchin' My Way: Shining in the Dark

    […] You Are Not Broken — A Strategy for Navigating Life With Humans Who Think You Are […]

  2. Leafy Avatar

    Bookmarked this post. I’ll make sure to come to it often to read your words when needed. I’ve also suggested the creation of a silent book club at my library association. No one had heard of it so who knows, perhaps that’ll do a little to help some RFMs find each other. Even if not though, there is meaning to be found in trying to make it happen.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      If you look at the silent book club website, they provide steps on how to get one started. I hope it happens for you, Leafy!

  3. Ian Avatar

    Some of you will have seen me posting rants about friendships, emotions etc., but this time I’m coming in with more positive things to say.

    I started a new job last year and moved to a new place. I originally found a group of people at work that I clicked with, but after a while it appeared that I became “too much” for some of them and things disintegrated. But in the meantime I’ve found a local Meetup group and have recently achieved one of my goals – to find a diverse social circle where I feel loved by a range of people, and get different needs met by different people, so that I can spread myself more thinly across a larger circle and thus not end up overly reliant on up to a few people and being “too much” for them.

    Regarding my usual issue with “too muchness” potentially being “creepy”, I’m more able to get away with it in a social circle if I can build a reputation for being this way with a fair number of people, as this tends to give people the impression that maybe this really is just the way I am, with no ulterior motives attached. The main difficulty is getting there in the first place, but I currently seem to be a large part of the way there.

    I still have plenty of existential concerns about the world and about social norms (human impacts on the climate systems is also one of my biggest ones, as it has been since I was around 9 years old!), but having a supportive circle around me helps to shield me to some extent from the negative impacts of having big existential concerns and feeling alienated from the dominant culture. It also helps to tame that “critical inner voice” which is overly fond of telling me that I am an “irrational freak”. I don’t know how long it will last, but so far I’ve been having an excellent 2022 and am striving to make the most of it while it lasts.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, Ian!! This is such great news and ought to be inspiring to anyone here following your other comments. Yes!!

    2. itssue42 Avatar

      Bravo Ian 🙂 So glad to hear you’re having progress and hopefully some genuine happiness, and calm, from your efforts. Take care

  4. Sheep’s Wool Avatar
    Sheep’s Wool

    I have been thinking that way too, Artie.

    And thank you for saying it. I needed to hear it.

    Please God (please the Universe), I can let this seep into me more and be braver. That would be wonderful and might even be an aspiration.

    I’ll just have to do a bit of processing on it and then I’ll know more.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Maybe being a “misfit” in a crazed world is exactly where we want to be. Maybe our existence is the point. Thank you Sheep’s Wool!

    2. Artie Avatar

      Yes, it sounds kind of logical but it’s difficult to believe because it often doesn’t feel that way. Still, it appears to be a matter of perspective and we just have to find the right one, the most convincing one. That I think, is a mental challenge, a good challenge.

      I also think that a very difficult thing to do is recognizing our own achievements and true value. I’ve been carrying these words of Søren Kierkegaard very close to me for a time:

      “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

      I have yet to put these words into real practice, but I think one of its possible implications is that, by nature, we oftenly forget the paths we have traveled. There’s nothing wrong with moving forwards but maybe we have to stop more often to reflect upon our own footsteps, just so to remember how far we have come and how much effort it has taken.

      I can only imagine that a person that deviates so much from the norm has been fighting constantly in a world (society) that barely makes sense. Brave? Such a person has been a warrior all her/his life. But that person doesn’t stop there, that person strives to be braver, be better. The question is: is that a person you can look up to, a person you can love?

      As I wrote, maybe is a matter of perspective. I don’t know for sure, but maybe we’re a little closer from the truth? I heard that that’s the basis of calculus, but I’m not a mathematician. 😊

      If you want to talk or share your thoughts I think you can send a message to Paula, she has my e-mail.

      I’m not good at this and I should probably stop, but I wrote this because I’m convinced of the meaning behind Paula’s blog and work. We need more Rainforest Minds and they need support. This world gets dark real fast and lights should shine, or at least I think so. It’s also a reminder to myself, I too want to be braver.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thank you, Artie, for sharing your thoughts. Just to clarify, I think you are offering to chat with any RFMs who would like to via email. Yes? I do have your email and if someone wants to contact you, they can email me and I will give them your email. OK? Just to let people know, you are in Venezuela, in case there are others here in your country.

        1. Artie Avatar

          Well, originally those words were meant for Sheep’s Wool. But that’s a good idea too. Maybe that way we can organize a RFM’s chat or something. I don’t know.

          And yes, I am in Venezuela.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Oh! Sorry for the misunderstanding, Artie. So, Sheep’s Wool, you can email me if you want to contact Artie.

  5. Artie Avatar

    I think if we see humans as elements within a system (society, in this case) and ultimately the system is flawed and rotting due to the natural distribution of its elements, then… There is the need for anomalies to appear within the system. It is a conjecture that ultimately attempts to justify the existence of misfits (bias), but it is clear that without their presence we would still be trading with slaves, for example. So, if we follow this thought, the correct thing for RFMs to do would be: to be themselves.

    In that way, RFMs are not only necessary but essential for the human species and its (their?) well-being.

    To sum it up even more, you’re all contributing enormously with your mere existence 😉

    This is something I wish the universe would tell me. You said it beautifully too, Paula. 😊

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, thank you, Artie. Your existence matters! 🙂

  6. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    A couple of new books that might offer direction and support. No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz is about Internal Family Systems therapy. Something I do with clients but you can work it on your own. Also Active Hope by Joanna Macy. I just ordered that one. It is her latest/revised book. Joanna Macy is a reliable resource on climate and the future. <3

  7. keithkenobi Avatar

    Wild Dreamer, here is some recognition. I got some “reward”? from your energy today, thanks! (deep cleansing breath)
    I am similar, I have lost the energy to be angry though, I just sigh, move on, and hope (and cry). You are not alone… the many like us (here and around) are gathering, acknowledging and growing. I see us sitting on a High-Council one day, liberating all the amazing beings who have been stifled. Their energy emerging, spreading and multiplying. Moving back to restore Mother Nature and to sooth the suffering …

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      And so, keithkenobi, what are you here on planet earth to do to contribute to restoring Mother Nature?? Not to put you, in particular, on the spot. I am asking this of everyone. I think this is one of our basic questions…right?

      1. keithkenobi Avatar

        Quality, not quantity. Negative population growth.
        I do what I can personally to tread lightly. Example is when camping, I pack out other people’s trash. That kind of living. Then voting (if the topic is not manipulated by greed to where you cannot comprehend it) for things that are not massive boondoggles etc. Like methods of timber harvesting that are not just raping/clearcutting. Build houses that are more efficient, self heating and cooling.
        Look up how much we waste on the prison system. Yes, waste! The ones getting out are -worse- than when they went in, that is waste!
        What can we do there?
        Let’s spend our efforts at the -root- of things instead of after the fact. Like if our children had a quality life, they would not turn to crime. If they learned how cool it is to see the uniqueness of others, I would not be writing this.

        We can look at the root of any issue and start there, but,,,
        It will take time, lots of time, to steer us back to this kind of living.

        Who should listen to me though, I can’t even find someone similar enough to share my life with, sigh.
        Keith… Empath, Introvert, HSP with RF-Mind, also PWHM (Privileged White Heterosexual Male) ha ha

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          These sound good, Keith. My suggestion is you keep taking these actions and join with others who are also active. There you might find some RFM prospects for relationships. There is also a good book Finding the One by Katherine Woodward Thomas. Not a great title but a good collection of ideas.

  8. Gail Post Avatar
    Gail Post

    Brilliant post – so timely and necessary!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Gail!

  9. clignett Avatar

    I have this song from Hamilton (the play) stuck in my mind for days now: “Wait for it”. It was performed at the concert for the Queen’s birthday and long reign of the UK (Queen’s Jubilee), songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber. If you want to see it, YouTube has the full coverage of all the three days of celebration.
    Here’s the link to the song.
    The song basically gives me the same message about people who don’t understand (nor want to) how my mind works. Maybe in a farfetched way, but that is exactly how my brain works – it sees connections in “short and long run” ways. And I love that song, especially that there is no difference between the concept of life and death (you really should hear and listen to the song to understand what I mean by that).

    The words
    “I am the one thing in life I can control
    I am inimitable
    I am an original
    I’m not falling behind or running late
    I’m not standing still
    I am lying in wait”
    They really resonate in my mind! And they help me put things in perspective with interactions with other people who are not RFM’s.

    And I am willing to wait for it. In this particular case, my tribe. It will come! They will come! And you are already here! ❤️

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I did just a little editing, clignett, to get the link so it didn’t show up as the video here on my site. I am a big Hamilton fan but will now hear that song differently. Thank you.

      1. clignett Avatar

        Thank you for editing, Paula! Wasn’t sure if I could put in the link, so happy you edited that! 😘

      2. clignett Avatar

        And so happy to give “twists” to lyrics that are different than the original meaning of lyrics. Hamilton is a “history story”, but the lyrics of this particular song can be put in the present as well, I believe.

  10. Wild dreamer Avatar
    Wild dreamer

    Oyoyoy. Where to even start with this one? I’ll start with the rage and the white hot fury because that’s where I land back at every single day.

    Every single day when I venture into the world to do my thing only to spend the day being accused of being intellectually inaccessible, to spend more time explaining the patently fucking obvious to people who aren’t capable of understanding, when every single conversation is punctuated with “I don’t get it”. It’s not even navigating a world that doesn’t want smart, creative, perceptive us. It’s how do you navigate a world when people are actively trying to break that part of you. And not because they’re malicious but because it’s a side effect of being different, and people don’t like different.

    Every single day, I swallow my frustration and annoyance and twist myself into pretzels to make myself accessible to people for absolutely no recognition or reward.

    Remind me of this conversation when I start every day the same way and end it in the same way, desperately trying to regain some equilibrium because my tension levels are off the scale from constantly holding back.

    Remind me of this conversation when you’re thinking 20-50 years ahead of the conversation you’re in and working in solutions by stealth so that the stuff you work on will still be relevant by the time they catch up.

    It’s not as simple as “you mustn’t let it stop you” when you’re being made physically ill because of the stress of trying to make a difference in a world that is actively hostile towards you.

    I’m tired, exhausted even. I’m lonely, disconnected. I’m losing touch with all the things that made the world magical because I’m buckling under dumbfuckery, wanton stupidity, unwitting and deliberate cruelty and the casual decimation of the planet for profit and there’s nobody left to hold me up. Boundaries: ain’t they grand?

    I have a friend who is smarter than I am. In a recent conversation he told me he would happily swap 20 IQ points for the equivalent emotional intelligence. Speaking from the other side of the line, please don’t. It’s not worth it. I’m doing that and I’m breaking. I’ve spent what feels like a thousand years being emotionally intelligent. When is someone going to turn around and give me what I need?

    This … it’s not about me and it’s not even about us. We get it. We know who and what we are. We know what lights our fire and how we hang on to sanity with our fingertips to be able to fight another day. This is about how we get THEM to see it, how we get THEM to think, how we get THEM to touch the void. Because we’re not most people. We’re a teeny tiny fragment of most people with a fuck ton of ability and insight. How do we optimise that potential to make a difference so people get it, so they can see it, so it catches fire? Because it’s not us that needs this anymore. It’s THEM. And they don’t care because they’re sleepwalking into oblivion with VR goggles on.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, Wild dreamer. I feel your rage and I do get it. I am sure others feel it, too. The exhaustion, illness, hostility. These are particularly hard times, too. I know there is a lot of “wanton stupidity” out there. Let us hold you here with love. Lots of love to you and your wild dreams.

    2. hksounds Avatar

      “And they don’t care because they’re sleepwalking into oblivion with VR goggles on.” Yes, they are, if you are optimistic. They are walking with eyes open and don’t give a damn, if you are not.

      To a very large extent, I see no awareness at all of the existential threats that we are facing. I see more and more trivial distractions that ensure compliancy with our own extinction. Not the brightest picture one could imagine, or the greatest goal one could hope to achieve.

      For me the question is: Is there a way to save or salvage this, the last of the, humanoid species? Is there a way to use our large brains to break the spell created by the brain that believes what it makes up is more real and important than the world, our Earth, that exists without a need for this or any of the millions of other species that exist or have existed over billions of years?

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        I would like to think we can “break the spell,” hksounds. I believe that Wild dreamer’s magical world still exists. But it is certainly hard to see right now. <3

        1. hksounds Avatar

          Hi Paula, You and I are coming from quite different perspectives. I think ‘magical’ is what has taken us to this dark place in our species history. The disconnection with the real world is where I think salvation, if any, is to be found. I think the natural world is full of wonder, which is absolutely not magic.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Oh, I do agree that the natural world is full of wonder, Joy. It could just be different definitions of magical. I think our perspectives may actually be similar. With the limitations of blog comments, I think it can be hard to get into the depth needed when these topics are so complex. I always appreciate your perspective.

            1. Wild dreamer Avatar
              Wild dreamer

              Just for clarity, when I say magical I don’t mean detached from reality, I mean immersed in it. There’s something quite extraordinary, even spiritual, about being in nature. It’s that sense of curiosity and discovery and beauty and the way you’re reliant on your senses but also your instinct and intuition and they work together harmoniously. All the angles, textures, colours, rhythms and sounds and the way they interweave to tell stories of places and history. It makes me feel tingly being amongst all of that.

              1. Paula Prober Avatar
                Paula Prober

                Well said, Wild dreamer. I suspect hksounds, (Joy in HK) would agree. Thank you.

      2. Wild dreamer Avatar
        Wild dreamer

        Yes! It’s been a very long time since anyone called me an optimist but I’ll take it. Although the recognition of where we are and where we’re going is dispiriting (read: horrifying), there’s something comforting about being in the same place with someone else who can see the same thing. Perhaps connection is the first step.

        1. hksounds Avatar

          Nothing wrong with being optimistic. It is probably the only outlook that will save us. You will see that this blog has pretty much ceased operations. My focus changed dramatically from performance art to wild life, from a blog to making mostly wildlife vidoes for my YouTube channel, Joy in HK.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Joy. Did you mean to link here to your blog? Or a YouTube channel?

        2. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Yes. Connection is critical, in my experience. And here is a link to an organization of people connecting and taking action around climate issues. We need to find the wanton intelligence!! It is there, too. 🙂

    3. Roy Avatar

      “Where to even start with this one? I’ll start with the rage and the white hot fury because that’s where I land back at every single day.
      It’s not even navigating a world that doesn’t want smart, creative, perceptive us. It’s how do you navigate a world when people are actively trying to break that part of you.”

      I feel that same white hot rage everyday as well. It is enraging not just because our culture’s hostility towards smart, creative, perceptive people is hurtful to us, but because it is hypocritical, stupid and dangerous. It is an inexplicable rejection of many of the human qualities that made our survival and success as a species possible in the first place.

      It is enraging because so many of the stories we tell about ourselves are bullshit. We talk about ourselves as if we value so many high-minded principles when we really don’t. We don’t actually like freedom. We don’t actually like intelligence and creativity. Hell, we don’t even like nice people.

      I would work harder at trying to accept being an outcast if it was simply a function of my own neuroses, dysfunction and inability or unwillingness to fit in. But it’s pretty clear that this society of ours is no longer working for most of us, and is endangering all of us.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        I hear you, Roy. And I also can feel appalled at what I am seeing at least here in N. America on many issues. For me, climate is the main one that concerns me, although there are others. That said, I am going to challenge you to “work harder” anyway. You have a rainforest mind for a reason, Roy. Those of us with rainforest minds are here for a reason. The society is full of the “wanton stupidity” for sure but there are also shining lights with great minds and big hearts. What if you took the power of the anger and joined forces with Van Jones and his Dream Corps? Or if this is making you physically ill, like Wild dreamer, maybe you need to focus on some radical self-care first or maybe you need to focus on survival needs for now. But those of us with rainforest minds are being called to act through our particular skills and talents. We can do this. You might follow Glennon Doyle’s podcast (We can do hard things) or Van Jones’ podcast. Maybe Jon Stewart. And in the meantime, I will send you love for your courage and your rage. <3 And for all of us. <3

    4. Marina Avatar

      Thank you for your comment, thank you for sharing your rage and fury. I do recognise this, I have lived with it for so long. It is really sad to see that we have the same kind of experiences out there, in the world where RFMs are not welcome because they are walking with their eyes wide open while other sleepwalk, as you say, eyes wide shut. To me, humans are on their way to self-destruction and there is no way I can prevent it on my own. The human race will not survive if it continues like this (yes, I know, this is very pessimistic) but it should not prevent me from trying to change things on a grass-root level, the only level that is available to me. I think that all alone, in my rage and anger, I will not be able to do anything except making life hard for myself and others. So I think Paula is right, RFMinded people need to get together, for their own sake AND for creating hope. With therapy, working on my inner self, finding ways to evacuate my rage against others and especially agains myself for being what and who I am, I discovered that all this negative energy can be used in for example creative activities (artistic embroidery). Transforming these emotions and letting go of my rage, unhappiness and frustration is really, really important to me. Creativity helps. Therapy helps. Letting go of expectations and the need to help and save the world helps. I don’t need to save the world, but I can contribute with others who try to do it. Together. And you know? Once I realised this, I discovered other RFMs like me and am now creating new friendships with them instead of entertaining relationships with people who are hostile to me and to my ‘crazy’ ideas and creativity. This IS possible – but it’s important for each RFM to do it her/his own way. Keep going, you are not alone!

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Well said, Marina. Thank you! A couple of online places to meet other RFMs would be or Also: Then there are the activist organizations depending on the causes you support. I may write a post that is more dedicated to this topic.

        1. itssue42 Avatar

          Yes, any suggestions on finding other RFMs would be greatly appreciated. And I would personally enjoy a blog post on the whole current issue of finding other RFMs with whom we can identify and find some camaraderie and friendship and common goals.

  11. Elle Avatar

    Nope, I ain’t broke. I am a little odd, slightly contrarian, and happy to march to the little beat of my own drum. Frankly, being called a weirdo or whatever is a compliment. I am happy to help boring people realize there are other ways to do things.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yep. I see it as a compliment, too. Thanks, Elle.

    2. itssue42 Avatar

      Yup, I tracked down a friend from high school 4 years ago. We had 2 fun years of getting together every couple months for coffee halfway between her home and mine. She gave me the best birthday card I could have ever gotten that read; “Happy Birthday to my favorite Weirdo”. She cherished me and my “me-ness” even though we were very different. She had serious genetic problems her whole life, but I was able to be there for the downhill months, by her side at the end. She “got” me, one of the rare people who did, even though we were so different. And she never even considered trying to change me in any way, just as I accepted her completely as she was.
      An incredible treasured memory.
      Being called a Weirdo is indeed a compliment. Great way to look at it. 🙂

  12. Georgia Patrick Avatar
    Georgia Patrick

    The finishing lines in your blog prompted this. It’s a story about weird. When my constant companion and office assistant, Cruiser, died in October, the Norfolk nation noticed I was without terrier supervision for the first time in 40 years. You can’t go out and buy one or find one. They come to you from the universe. A month after Cruiser died I get a call. Would I consider giving a home to an adult, 5-year-old male Norfolk? A retired champion. What’s his name? He answers to Fun. What name is on his birth certificate and AKC papers? Champion Just Give Me A Reason. We both love working to Pink sound tracks. And long walks.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the sweet story, Georgia!

  13. Kristel Vereecken Avatar
    Kristel Vereecken

    Hey Paula, I great way to meet other RFM is on festivals like wherethelightgetsin Festival (philosophy, the big ideas, science, music and so on) as well in London as in Hay on Wye, both in the UK. It’s RFM heaven or better playground:)!!! So liberating and empowering

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, yes, Kristel! Thank you for this!!