The Benefits Of Not Fitting In When You Are A Quirky Gifted Outlier

My friend Delia’s screen saver is The Origin of the Solar System Elements. Not her adorable son or her handsome hubby. Nope. The Origin of the Solar System Elements. Do you think she might have a rainforest mind? Delia loves fractals and is fascinated by the Mandelbrot set and the Oort Cloud. She reads voraciously; Virginia Wolfe is her hero. She is studying Zen Buddhism and practices yoga and meditation religiously when she isn’t in some sort of Jungian analysis or other introspective process. Her capacity to write fiction has always captivated me. Delia is a deeply sensitive, introverted soul with an enormous heart. She would tell you her brother is the gifted one and that she never fit into her family, her school, or her community. Maybe not even into this world. Can you relate?

But, maybe fitting in is over-rated.

Certainly, I understand the appeal. We all want to be loved, to be understood, and accepted. We need to belong– to a family, a clan, a community, a world. Of course we do. It can be lonely being the outlier, the misfit, the weirdo. The lover of fractals.

But what are the benefits of not fitting in?

Well. Here are my answers. I think each of you will need to come up with your own, based on your particular life. So. For me: If I do not fit, then, I do not have to worry about impressing anyone because people do not know what expectations to place on me. I do not have to pretend to love camping or to start running marathons. (These are things you have to do to fit in when you live in Oregon.) I can carve my own career niche. I can gain the fine reputation as the eccentric but lovable auntie and I do not have to send anyone to Harvard. I can be as creative as I wanna be. I can let my hair unravel. I can be a little irreverent when I write blog posts. I can live life on my own terms. And, of course, I can create my own clan of beautiful outliers (that would be you) where love, sweetness, and fractals flourish!

And you?

From the quirky, gifted, outlier actress, Janeane Garofalo:

“…If you behave in a manner pleasing to most, then you are probably doing something wrong. The masses have never been arbiters of the sublime, and they often fail to recognize the truly great individual. Taking into account the public’s regrettable lack of taste, it is incumbent on you to not fit in.”


To my dearest bloggEEs: I know how painful it can be to be left out and misunderstood. I mean, that is why I am here for you. But maybe you can come up with some benefits to not being quite so pleasing and not part of the masses and their “regrettable lack of taste!” Let us know the benefits. Much love to you, my darlings. (And thank you to Delia for letting me describe her.)

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.

22 responses to “The Benefits Of Not Fitting In When You Are A Quirky Gifted Outlier”

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  2. Teresa C Avatar
    Teresa C

    My eye caught your article and I had to read it. I’ve never fit in, have never wanted to and have thoroughly enjoyed the life I have. Re: Friends. I have few but they love, like, accept me and our friendships are over 35, 55 years. Thank you so much for your article! I look forward to receiving more of your sharing.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad to have you here, Teresa!

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  4. Carol Avatar

    Love this!! ❤️ Nope, I have NEVER fit in. My desktop images are never of loved ones, either – lol! As a matter of fact, I generally don’t take photos of humans. I’m a musician, author/poet, equestrian, artist, and nature is home to me. I do things MY way. I learn new things quickly. I’m not a scientist (although Dad was), but love science. Fitting in?? That’s for muggles 😊

  5. itssue42 Avatar

    A lifetime of not fitting in means that generally people aren’t fond of doing what I like to do. So I love to walk on a stormy beach, not most people, so it’s peaceful i.e. no people. Don’t mind walking 4 miles to get to a deserted beach, so have it all to myself, which lets me enjoy all the creatures.

    Have to be in nature, in the country, surrounded by wild things. Most people would rather have shopping and neighbors, so that makes the land I love more affordable and the peace and quiet of no human sounds so I can enjoy the continuous riotous sounds of my real world. Plants and animals are never quiet, and they are so musical, so hopeful, so uplifting, such a can-do attitude. 🙂

    People at the ballroom dance studio I love find me so quirky, that they call me mysterious, and always think I’m up to something unique and fascinating. Ha ha! If only they knew, I’m just journeying around with all the other (non-human) creatures on this planet and doing things most people don’t, like building a fence or finishing another masters; but it gives me a certain ‘rep’ which is kinda fun. And allows me to be silly and sometimes make up outlandish activities where nobody can be quite sure if I mean it or not.

    I hate airplanes, even though I’ve been in all kinds. So, being ‘quirky’ I drive to dance competitions, while my compatriots fly. So I go a few days early, get to see the city, often one I haven’t been to. And then I can point people to various locations when they arrive, so they enjoy the experience more.

    It means that I don’t give a second thought to not sticking with a group if I see something interesting that distracts me. Lot of freedom to experience more of the world around you when you don’t worry about ‘fitting in’ or what other people think. And you meet all kinds of interesting people when you wander off the beaten path in life; always fascinating to spend an hour with a stranger and hear about their slice of life.

    Being quirky maybe means some day, some day, maybe, just maybe, I’ll find someone I adore and they’ll love me Because I’m quirky. Wouldn’t that be marvelous 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Ballroom dance competitions?!? Sounds like fun!

      1. itssue42 Avatar

        Fun, yes but also intense, traumatic, drama-laden, hilarious, stressful, fascinating and expensive. A massive input of sight, sound, colors, people, experiences in the space of 3 to 5 days. Fascinating probably is the single word that sums it up best. One of those experiences you can be delighted to partake of no more than every 6 months or so; very much a matter of stepping completely out of one’s comfort zone on several levels.

        Sort of like parasailing, way out of my comfort level. Very glad I got up the courage to try parasailing once. Will never ever do it again. But dance, yeah, it keeps luring me back 😀

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Ah, yes, Sue. That makes sense. It would be all those things!!

  6. hksounds Avatar

    I don’t fit in. I don’t think fitting in was ever an option for me, and so, mostly I didn’t, but the few times I did, it was because that was how it was, rather than a choice. I never tried to fit in, at least not in any way I was conscious of. I am afraid my opinion of others has ranged from being totally baffled by them, to the “anthropologist on Mars” approach, to utter contempt. Fitting in is not something that some of us can actually do.

    Those times when I have felt like I fit in were certainly not with the Mensans, even less the Intertel-ites. It was with street-smart kids, who could play the dozens in lightning speed, or the ones, usually guys, with whom we could talk sports. It is fascinating to me that people who have no trouble in discussing the intricacies of batting averages, slugging percentages, pass completions, interceptions, the advantages of 4-4-2, one-handed backhand, and scrutinizing the most minute elements of how not to approach a penalty kick, cannot think their way through even the simplest of financial and political issues. How is this possible?

    The Garofalo quote implies that fitting in is simply an option that should be refused. That is not me. Thanks for the interesting topic.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Interesting question, hksounds. It sounds like you have run into people who may have mathematical strengths or capacity with numbers/statistics but they are not RFMs. Is that right?

  7. Elle Avatar

    Gawd, I dislike both camping and running.

    If something is popular among the masses I generally don’t like it. I enjoy being a bit of a pop culture contrarian and an outlier in general. Does that make me a bad person? Hahha. Who cares? Wheee!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Haha, Elle! Contrarians, unite!

  8. clignett Avatar

    I remember when I was a kid (11 years old), and we moved back to Brazil. Some activities were meant to do in groups, so I always was picked last (ongoing story throughout my “schoolcareer”) (and the rest of my career as well , for that matter). But this particular group refused to talk English, and only Portuguese, while I was still re-learning the language as I’d been away for 5 years and had to learn other languages as well in those years in Belgium.

    After asking about 3 or 4 times to discuss the assignment in English, and being ignored every time, I’ve finally had enough. I just walked out of the class, locked myself in the bathroom with a book, and wouldn’t come out. You want to do it without me, while I can see your flawed thinking and thus coming to the wrong conclusion, then please let me out of this group! It turned out to be whole consternation at school (white I had the best time with my book 😅), the principal finally got me to open the door after a couple of hours and walk me with him to his office.. There he explained to me that he had done everything he could to place me in not one grade higher, but two, but was stopped by the board because that was impossible that a kid at that age could understand and make it to the next grade without feeling disappointed for failing that grade. He said he really argued my case, but couldn’t win it. Also because I was behind in some of the classes, which made sense – I never had classes om American History for example.
    The kids in that group all came to apologize, which was nice of them. But the trust in them was gone for me. No way to get that back. Just don’t ignore someone so bluntly!

    The benefit of this was that the teachers finally started to take me seriously, and they implemented higher grade tests for me, which of course was easy for me. Thèn they saw.. but the board still refused. My Portuguese was at the top level within 2 months, English even faster..but still no joy.. the other kids started to take extra lessons from me, haha!

    Unfortunately we moved back to The Netherlands, after more than 2 years. Here the school wouldn’t even contemplate putting me in a class above my age. So the rest of my schooltime here, I was bored to death. Had some classes where my presence wasn’t needed (English, French) and other classes I just skipped. Could learn more from the books than the teachers. Only when I met a hiccup in a book, I’d show up. But the response was that the class wasn’t there yet.. ok, after school? No, not an option.. My father to the rescue and I could move on again..

    So in my case, I’m sorry, I have not encountered many benefits when I was younger.. girls were jealous of me and probably scared of me. Boys had to be careful with their jealous girlfriends…Not that they not Í was interested in that way, but they could follow my mind better and see the logic in it. And I saw them as friends, and so did they. “Just one of the guys”. Which created more jealousy..

    Nowadays I’m careful to let people in and see my mind. How it works, The visions I have and can follow in (for them) a split second. The trust in people has gone for the most part.

    So, no, I do not fit in, keep myself to myself. I don’t even try to fit in.
    Have a couple of friends who are actually trying to follow, whom I love for that!

    And this, this says it all!!
    “…If you behave in a manner pleasing to most, then you are probably doing something wrong. The masses have never been arbiters of the sublime, and they often fail to recognize the truly great individual. Taking into account the public’s regrettable lack of taste, it is incumbent on you to not fit in.”

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think being left out is more painful when we are young. So, benefits might only be accessible as we get older. Thanks, clignett.

      1. Marina Avatar

        Paula, perhaps true for some RFMs who have managed to find other RFMs. I find that being left out is still just as painful, even though I’ve experienced it so many times (I haven’t found any RFM friends to hang out with). Now I know why I can’t belong, but it doesn’t make it any easier. When moving in groups, I’m prepared, I know what’s going to happen and I just do my own things. Less disappointment, and less stressful, atleast emotionally!

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Oh, Marina! Are you in Switzerland? Or Finland? There are definitely some Swiss RFMs who are reading my blog and the organization is based in Switzerland. They will sometimes have meetups. There is also a therapist based in Finland who knows giftedness. Pascale Coutanceau. She may know other Finnish RFMs. Another thought is you could see if your city has a silent book club, and if not, you could start one??

          1. Marina Avatar

            I live in Switzerland which is a complicated country, linguistically and culturally (lots of languages and dialects, lots of important cultural differences). Or perhaps it’s just me, as I never seem to speak the language of the majority well enough to feel comfortable (German/ Swiss-german in Switzerland, Finnish in Finland). Much easier for people in the US and UK – everybody just speaks English. Linguistically, Europe is nothing like the US or the UK, and we very often have to speak other languages than our mother tongue, which can be complicated when communicating.
            I believe Pascale Coutanceau works in Norway, and I don’t really need a coach (and can’t afford one), since I am a trained holistic coach myself (had to give up my practice because of the pandemic), as well as my husband, with whom I interact alot and who gives me support and companionship (and a loving everyday life, of course!). And I have been to lots of therapists who claimed they knew everything about gifted people (which they didn’t) so I am very cautious in my choices now. I might have found THE therapist I need now, just starting working with her.
            No Silent book club in Lausanne, only in Zürich (German-speaking part of the country, 3 hours away by train – complicated). When I was active in Mensa and ASAAS (associations for the gifted), I suggested creating a silent book club, but people just sneered and said they prefer sitting at home on their own, reading. I have tried Emily Wapnik’s Puttylike community – not for me. I have tried to be active in local committees to promote information about giftedness, only to discover that the initiators had hidden agendas, promoting their own professional careers by offering expensive services to desperate gifted people. So when I see that asks for CHF 125 just to enter their community (I don’t even know if it will suit me, haha, a true blind test for dummies!!), I become very suspicious. This is a huge sum of money to me – I never even found a day job to pay my bills here in Switzerland and am dependent on my husband’s income. And the website is full of prices – the workshops cost so and so much, the courses so and so much… hey, that is not what I want. To pay for a feeling of belonging? To pay, hoping to find like-minded people? I’ve done that, and I know the result.
            What I would need is close pals in my region that I can meet up with, somebody that I don’t have to pay for their attention/friendship?/advice/shared moments, that I can have a drink/a cup of tea with, cry with, share experiences with, sit quietly with, talk on the phone with, support (and get support) in hard times, and have fun with – not a worldwide community that remains virtual. Can’t meet up for a quick drink with someone in Canada, not really!
            I’ve tried lots of things and am now a bit tired of trying and being the leading engine, hoping that others might catch on. So I concentrate on myself now. Just finished an MA in English linguistics and Digital Humanities, and I am continuing with a PhD in March 2023 that I plan to finish when I turn 65. And can you imagine: my supervising professor insisted that I continue working with her, and she offered me a 6-month contract to work in her university project. Isn’t that just wonderful? It’s the first time in 30 years someone truly appreciates my education and expertise! Simply extraordinary, don’t you agree?!

            1. Paula Prober Avatar
              Paula Prober

              Oh, yes, Pascale Coutanceau, is in Norway. It sounds like you have had a wonderful development with your supervising professor. That is great news!

  9. iverson Avatar

    Just a curiosity.
    Is there a common personality trait among those who have the rainforest mind?

    I refer to these personalities:

    I can’t speak English. I’m Brazilian.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I don’t know if there has been any research specifically on this. Deborah Ruf writes about giftedness and refers to this a bit in a book she is working on now. But other than that I don’t know. Thank you for being here, iverson. There are a number of Brazilians reading my blog!

    2. keithkenobi Avatar

      Iverson; I am a “The Advocate” (INFJ-A)
      However, I got that result several years ago. This year I got Assertive Defender (ISFJ-A)

      I am OK not fitting in (with the masses) -now-, because I have enough friends like me. (It was worse when young when I “thought” everyone was basically like me, (HA!) … and that they just did not know it).

      **Now I know better that we are in the minority and each one of us is further VERY Unique (after reading postings here).

      HOWEVER, I do really need someone to be close and intimate that “gets me”, THAT is ME, I work 10-Fold with that closeness and support.
      I just cannot find her (after 3 failures).