What normally comes to mind when someone is called a freak are images of an oddball, a hippie, a drug addict, or someone displaying some displeasing social or sexual behaviour. It is not something we want to be called. However, it is a pity that we typecast such people as freaks because we owe much to the freaks of this world. They are the odd ones out, the outliers, the unusual and unpredictable ones who are brave enough to stay true to themselves and add some colour to our world.
In a way, we were all born as freaks in the positive sense of being unique and unusual. The sad truth, though, is that society, for the most part, cannot handle unique freaks. It starts with our parents, who with the best of intentions, jump right in and do their best to make sure that we fit in just nicely and not cause them any embarrassment. Then we are handed over to the other two main partners, the school and the church, to further ensure that we fit the mould and that we proudly carry the label as an upright and respectable citizen. Often, by the time that society has put us through its paces, there is not much left of our uniqueness. All the colour has been washed out. We are now exemplary conformists. We don’t stir up trouble; we do as we are told, and everybody is happy apart from us. They can now relax in the belief that they have done their part to ensure we stay in line and follow the rest of the sheeple.
And yet, some got away. They are the rebels, the freaks, and the outliers who managed to escape this levelling and sanitizing program, and who stayed true to themselves, often at the great personal price of being ridiculed, rejected, and side-lined. Bravely, they fly their freak flags and hang onto their uniqueness for dear life. They travel the road less travelled, they question and challenge rules and beliefs, and they stay clear of the shackles of conformity. They don’t play according to the playbook of their culture, but design their own. They explore. They fail and then try again. They have no desire to impress or seek approval. What other people think of them is none of their business. They are free.
In 1969, during the so-called hippie era, Jimmy Hendrix, an American musician, singer, and songwriter and a non-conformist by nature, wrote a song called “If 6 was 9”. A few lines from that song say it all:
I got my own world to live through and I ain’t gonna copy you
White-collared conservative flashing down the street
Pointing their plastic finger at me,
They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die
But I’m gonna wave my freak flag high
Let us fly our freak flags high. Wear that purple hat or those silly shoes! Be goofy, laugh from your belly and cry like a baby! Think for yourself, do your own thing, and proudly show your true colours! It is only then that we add colour to a world that is so desperately in need of honesty, integrity and uniqueness. Let’s embrace our uniqueness, and love ourselves for who we are. Let’s be brave and start removing the layers of old paint and discovering our true colours. No one should die with their song still playing silently inside them. It is never too late to start living. It took me a few decades to remove the layers of old paint to get closer to the core of my own true self. But thanks to going through this process, it is now my life’s calling to help others do the same, to find their own true north and proudly be the beautiful freaks they were originally meant to be.
Let them freak out. Be who you are. It is your birthright.
“Nothing can be more hurtful to your heart than betraying yourself.”
― Roy T. Bennett