Julia Roberts’ character is feeling downtrodden. She says, “I’m weird.”
Her best friends says, “No, you’re quirky, quirky and weird are two very different things.”
I would have to agree.
The word quirky has a special power. Just like the word’s definition, it feels very unique. Quirky has a punch to it and at the same time it’s soft. Quirky describes someone or something as different. And at the same time likable. It’s human. Quirky has a lightness to it. It has a feeling of play. Of not taking life sooooo seriously. Of dancing.
Even though quirky can be an insult, weird is generally much more pejorative. When we think of ourselves as quirky, it’s usually self-approving. Quirky is “good-different.” (In my survey of 150 self-identified quirky people last year, more than 95% thought being quirky is a positive.)
For me the essence of quirkiness is being real. Without a mask. Being quirky is not about making a special effort to be different. It’s about being who you are.
Everyone on the planet is quirky, but the truly quirky ones admit that they are.
Everyone is quirky. But most of us hide it or apologize for our quirks.
Here’s an excerpt from my book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics where I first started to develop my ideas around quirky.
Merriam-Webster defines “quirk” as “an abrupt twist or curve,” and “a peculiar trait: idiosyncrasy.” In a sense, quirkyness is inherent to all of us: we are all individuals, so we are all quirky. And yet, it is generally acknowledged that there are quirky people and not-so-quirky people. What is the difference? Perhaps truly quirky people are the ones who don’t have the option of camouflaging their individuality: they just seem to be uncontrollably themselves. Quirky is human. It’s real. It’s unintentional difference, being distinctive without artifice.
While calling someone “weird” can be a put-down and “quirky” can be too, “quirky” also describes something distinct. “Quirky” is softer than “odd”; it’s somehow endearing—even lovable. Witness the extremely frequent use of the word in the descriptions of romantic comedies, in which quirky people (against all odds) find each other and fall in love.
The Quirky Inner Child
The poet Ted Hughes (husband of Sylvia Plath) wrote some advice to his son and in this letter I see him talking about the quirky light-filled child inside of us before it’s buried by the pressures of the world in the quest to become socially acceptable.
“Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances.
And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact.’ But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child.”
I did an in-depth survey of self-identified quirky people in 2012. Here are some definitions from people who responded to my survey. They say “quirky” is:
• “Enjoying life and dancing to your own beat. Quirky people are often the first on the dance floor.”
• “Willing to throw a stone into a pond with no guarantee that all of the resultant ripples will go in the expected directions.”
• “Choosing your own path in life and to do things because they suit you, not someone else’s ideals.”
• “Something with raw energy and is unique from what you may see surrounding it. A more attractive path for some, while offbeat and odd to others.”
• “Delighting in everyday life. You would be amazed by how much people lighten up when a sixtysomething stomps in a puddle.”
• “Absolutely s-e-x-y.”
Quirky often means taking an experimental approach to adulthood, not always following an automatic path. It’s realizing that living off a predefined grid can be a freeing and fruitful place to be. However, you can also follow a very traditional path–let’s say, a corporate job, parenthood, and marriage, and still be quirky. It’s all about how you show up in the world, even inside the most traditional structures. You might be the one who comes to work every day and dances through the cubicles or dusts your co-workers desks’ with daisy petals.
If you would like to up the level of quirkyness in your life, here are five ways you can do that with me:
Go Forth and GetQuirky, online course and community
Lady Q Coaching
Quirkysensual travel adventures
Sign up for my mailing list for weekly inspiration
Read my books Quirkyalone and To-Do List!