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  • Writer's pictureAndi Matheny

Embrace your inner could be your key to success!

I remember feeling like an outsider all throughout grammar school. I had skipped first grade into second grade early in the school year, so at 6 years old I was surrounded by 7 and 8-year olds who teased me merciless about....everything. My age, my family's embarrassing pet name for me (which was leaked unwittingly by a family friend) and particularly my outspoken desire to excel in school. I was called "Brain" with the same kind of venom that many use racial slurs. I was a kid with no thick skin and it hurt like crazy every day I showed up in class.

My cool friend Cornie tried coaching me to fit in. "You use strange words," she said. "It makes you come off...different." "I'm not quite sure what you mean," I replied with big tears rolling down my cheeks. "There you go again!" she said. "No one our age uses the word 'quite!'"

This is the lesson we all get at an early age. Blend in to be accepted. Be ordinary, don't stand out or the penalty is ostracization (there I go with the strange words again...)

Yet many of our greatest actors and comics don't blend in, but embrace everything that makes them different and use those qualities to their advantage. I'm thinking of the cast of Seinfeld, particularly Jason Alexander and Michael Richards, who took their neuroses and quirks to create George Costanza and Kramer, two of the greatest characters in TV history. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who used their brains and wit first as writers and improv performers to become our most sought-after actresses/award show hosts/social commentators. Melissa McCarthy who defied the stereotype of the Hollywood skinny girl and is now one of the biggest box office draws, and in my opinion, currently our funniest working actor.

It's easy to point out the funny people - we expect the funny ones to be different. There's also Ryan Gosling, who was bullied as a kid for being "different." George Clooney had Bell's palsy in school. Angelina Jolie was teased for being too thin and for wearing glasses and braces. Al Pacino was shy and introverted. Julia Roberts felt like an outsider in high school. Lea Michele says "I grew up in a high school where if you didn't have a nose job and money and if you weren't thin, you weren't cool, popular, beautiful." But now, Gosling is lauded for his differences and daring acting style. Angelina Jolie became one of our great actresses and is also well-known for her compassion for human rights and other causes. George Clooney is known for his self-deprecating sense of humor. I daresay these actors use their past to inform their work and to give it depth and empathy. They turned these so-called deficits to their advantage.

I tell my actors all the time - there's nobody else in the world like you. With your emotional life, your experiences and memories, your triumphs and tragedies. With your face, your nose, your body. What you think may be imperfect may be the very distinguishing quality that sets you apart.

And nobody else has your quirks, your special interests like you do. If you're a history buff, a word nerd, a sewing fanatic, a skydiving daredevil, an expert on Estonian cuisine. If you play piano with your butt, if you talk to for cat in a made-up cartoon voice (I'm not saying I've ever done that,) if you paint in the nude, if you know all the martial-arts moves in a Bruce Lee movie or can quote Groucho or Karl Marx. These are all wonderful, weird, embraceable parts of you. These qualities make you an interesting human. They give you dimension and set you apart. They give you something interesting to talk about - at a party, a first date, or even an audition.

Whatever you thought was weird about you in the past makes you - you. So embrace and cultivate your inner weirdo, whatever it is. That just might make you quite the stand-out.

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