Solzhenitsyn suggested that “Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century.” How true! A very significant advantage of being different is that it can become an automatic filter for superficial people. Who would want to be friends or lovers with the type of shallow people who would judge you simply based on physical attributes anyway? Seriously, your being different becomes a fantastic way to drastically improve the chances that you will spend your time with people who love you for who you are as a person rather than for superficial qualities.
When I began dating my wife Olya, the first thing that struck me was this: she seemed to love me for exactly the person that I was. It was an amazing feeling of acceptance. I could sense that this was real and deep. Her loving me regardless of my quirky physical appearance meant the world to me.
You’re probably curious, so I’ll tell you that my wife is a full three inches taller than me. Did this bother her? Nope, and I could sense that. However, while we were dating her roommates and some of her closest friends were opposed to her dating me simply because of my height. They were quite open about it. They told her that it wasn’t kosher for someone of her height to date someone of my height, but it wasn’t an issue for her and she simply disregarded their concerns. Not only does my wife accept my size, but I think she is a very accepting person in general. I don’t feel like she’s always trying to change me and this has been very good for our relationship.
Now I’m not saying that being different will guarantee that you won’t have relationship struggles, but I do believe that your difference will reduce the frequency with which you will form intimate relationships with superficial people. In fact, some of the people we interviewed shared their experiences about how it helped them find both higher quality friends and romantic partners. In some cases those we interviewed reported that their friends not only accepted their physical difference but defended it to others. One woman we interviewed discovered that her physical defect could be remedied by surgery, but it was so valuable to her as a filter of shallow people that she chose not to do the surgery. Your difference can be an invaluable people filter.
The rest of this post has now been published in my book Standing up for Standing Out: Making the most of Being Different in Kindle or hard copy.The book includes experiences from 74 people I interviewed who share their struggles and coping strategies on the topics of relationships, belonging, standing out, self-acceptance, working against labels, gaining understanding and compassion, and personal growth. Check it out!