Fitting in vs. standing out

Last week’s post on atheist communities, and the ensuing discussion,   alerted me to this discussion of Third Culture Kids.  The key concept is that when you’re raised by parents of one culture in a community with another culture, you don’t really belong anywhere, and you never will.

And the same is true when you go from one culture to another, whether the movement is geographical or philosophical. I’m accustomed to that myself, since my family moved around a lot when I was a kid (I wasn’t an Army brat, but it was somewhat similar), and I got used to being the “new kid.”

In a way, most atheists are Third Culture Kids (or grownups) in a way, since most of us were brought up with a religion that we’ve now left behind. Of course, the upside to not fitting in is that you’re more free to stand out. You know you’re never going to be the best at getting people’s approval, so you’re more likely to choose life paths that don’t depend on other people’s approval. That’s a good recipe for turning out pretty cool.

This is a grotesque overgeneralization (and constrained by small sample size and possible confirmation bias), but  most mixed-race people I’ve known, who grow up not really fitting in with either race they’re affiliated with, have been pretty cool people. I wonder if not feeling like you fit in is a price you pay for being cool, or perhaps if being cool is one of the possible compensations for not getting to feel like you fit in. Or maybe it’s that when the option of fitting in is just not on the table, the option of standing out becomes more appealing.

(pic via Savage Chickens)

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