An outlier is defined as a person or thing that differs from all of the other members of a particular group or set. You hear about outliers most commonly in school during math class, but all too often these same outliers have a negative connotation.
If your first thought after reading the definition of an outlier — especially after reading the word “differs” included in the definition — wasn’t the most positive of thoughts, then your reaction would be typical to something that you’re not used to or accustomed to. A typical reaction to something that’s different.
All too often we perceive outliers, or things that are unusually different or out of the ordinary, as negative. We live in a world that tends to breed sameness. We all want to fit in and be liked. After all, it’s only human to want both. Because of this, we think we need to be like everyone else, and in the process we conform too easily to sameness.
This causes people to be silenced when they have an opinion or thought that is unlike other spoken opinions or thoughts. This happens even when there are so many others who are in the same exact boat as you are, forming the same exact thoughts and opinions as you are.
There is nothing to gain or to learn from the silence. There are only words that are lost and actions that are contained. We take fewer risks. We play it safe through our actions and our words for fear of being judged or deemed “different.”
At the same time, our world also tries to actively promote originality, uniqueness and diversity. Even theme songs from children’s TV shows that many of us watched when we were growing up — such as “Arthur” — preach this idea of originality, listening to your heart, believing in yourself and learning to work together. Who does the show teach this important life lesson to? To children, who are the future leaders of our world. We can all afford to be children again for a day, if only that means learning this crucial lesson and teaching it to others as we journey through life with them.
Along the way, we’ve come to believe that anything ordinary is nothing special, so we’re constantly evolving. We’re constantly picking up the pace and moving forward. We’re constantly changing. Our lives and the people, places and things in them are constantly changing. We’re an active society. We’re a progressive society. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Change starts with one person, and while we all tend to want somewhat similar things internally, there aren’t many who will step up and act or use their voices to go about inspiring meaningful change.There aren’t many who will be outliers in the sense that they were the first to break the silence that we have existed in for so long now. Who will be the Gandhi’s or the Martin Luther King Jr.’s of our generation? Everything starts with one person. Everything starts with an outlier.
No matter how out there and bizarre your potential words and actions may seem, chances are there’s more than one person who thinks and feels the exact same way as you do. You are not alone. That’s such a powerful thought to carry around with you.
So how do we compromise? How do we find acceptance in our world and among those we care about, but also speak the thoughts on our minds as we think them, and carry out our actions as we feel them? It’s all about mindset. And the mindset surrounding “different” needs to change. Differences need to be celebrated and held in a positive light as something to strive for rather than shy away from. Differences are what give us character, what make us distinct. These differences inspire a world created from constructive and creative thinking.
Could you imagine a world in which everyone was the same? A world in which everyone looked the same, acted the same and thought the same? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in that world.
Now, it comes down to the question of change. How do we move forward? How do we progress and grow? We do so through outliers. Through the people who embody new and progressive ideas and actions, who actually express them and carry them out. Change comes down to the one person who originally initiates it. Change comes down to the outlier.
Be the outlier.
Catherine Manthorp, ’18, is an assistant news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]