Your socially awkward Edgar suit

If you’ve watched Men in Black you might remember the scene where the vicious alien kills a farmer and starts wearing his body like a suit (and if you haven’t watched Men in Black then I just spoiled part of the movie for you, sorry).

Anyway, the farmer’s name is (was) Edgar, and when Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) figures out what the alien’s done he says, “Imagine a giant cockroach, with unlimited strength, a massive inferiority complex, and a real short temper, is tear-assing around Manhattan Island in a brand-new Edgar suit.

Photo by Sarah Gordon of one of the Bloomington, Indiana brains

When you’re socially awkward and having a really bad time of it you can feel like your body is an Edgar suit. Your skin doesn’t fit right over your bones. Your smile is a grimace. Maybe your stomach’s coming out of your mouth. People might ask you if you’re ok, and you know they’re quietly wondering if you’re an alien. And you are an alien; that’s how you feel. You don’t have to be a vicious alien – you could be E.T. or Alf – but you’re still an alien, and you’ve landed among people you don’t get and who don’t get you. You try to speak to them but your voice comes out garbled.

That’s what you feel, anyway – that the Edgar suit is coming apart at the seams and sooner or later everyone’s going to see the giant sticky insect within.

You think that everyone else is like Agent J or K, down to the Rayban sunglasses and the fact that if they mess up at something people forget two minutes later. But when you mess up – say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing – stop the presses! The whole world watches and remembers for eternity.

But the reality is, many other people, more people than you think, are staggering around in their own Edgar suits.

Have some sympathy for their Edgar-suited predicaments. People are skin and bone and mortal flesh. Most of them don’t know what the heck is going on most of the time. If they’re loud and seem confident they could be making noise to mask a small panicked voice in their head. You never know. And even if they’re not, remember, they’re skin and bones. Like everyone else they’ll die some day, as will you. I don’t mean to be morbid, but it’s true – there are no gods among us. There are brilliant people, talented people, bright kind people who shine a light wherever they go, and we can admire them and love them, but let’s not worship them. Many of them wrestle daily with insecurity and doubt. (Those who don’t are suspect.)

Seriously, indifference towards what other people may think of you combined with sympathy for their alien humanness, so different from yours in some ways and so similar in others, is the way to go. Unless they’re a vicious sort of bug, to be avoided lest they eat you up like a plate of pierogi, don’t worry so much about them.

Easier said than done, I know. That’s where you have to start living the words. Show up, be one with your awkwardness, and do what you love. Slowly you’ll get the hang of it and not worry so much about the insect mandibles protruding from your mouth.

(The Edgar suit image links back to its source, Men in Black Wikia.)

Marching to the beat of your own drummer works…

… if you don’t mind making music all by yourself?

New research written up in a Science Daily article called, Dont Get Mad, Get Creative: Social Rejection Can Fuel Imaginative Thinking claims the following:

A study by a Johns Hopkins University business professor finds that social rejection can inspire imaginative thinking, particularly in individuals with a strong sense of their own independence.

(The emphasis in bold is mine.)

Some questions this raises for me:

1) What leads some people to develop a sense of strong independence vs. really hoping to be included? Can people who really long for inclusion become more genuinely independent? (not in a false way, where they pretend not to care, while seething with anger and forming little groups of their own from which they can reject people). Can people who start off independent get worn down and long for inclusion – if so, how does this happen?

2) How is social inclusion being defined here? Is it inclusion in terms of mainstream values? There are people who might not be bothered by rejection by the mainstream, but care very much about the opinions of a non-mainstream group. Does true independence hold in the face of all kinds of rejection, both mainstream and non-mainstream?

3) More from the article:

“Rejection confirms for independent people what they already feel about themselves, that they’re not like others. For such people, that distinction is a positive one leading them to greater creativity.”

What other qualities accompany this feeling of being proudly different from others? Positive qualities like resilience, focus and discipline. Possibly negative qualities like arrogance and contempt (are these conducive to creativity?).