In my world, Q stands for Quirky.

…and I’ve been using that in the branding of my professional services for several years. So you might understand why I am somewhere beyond peeved that a cult of conspiracy theorists has co-opted and branded this letter of the alphabet as its own, making it so notorious that it’s moved into the forefront of the mainstream’s awareness.

The beliefs of the cult (self-identified members like to call it a movement – yikes!) include a wide-ranging combination of bizarre and misguided notions, ranging from allegations that appear to have their roots in a very old strain of anti-Semitism, to paranoia about preventative medicine, to an inability to comprehend the possibility of altruism, with a lot of racism and xenophobia mixed in. This pattern of fear, mistrust, hatred, and leanings toward destruction is definitely not Quirky; it’s strange and alarming—the scary, “bad” kind of weird.

My now-grown-up kids used to make a distinction between what they called “the good kind of weird” vs. “the bad kind of weird.” Like many gifted kids, they were keen to make this distinction because they recognized that they, themselves, were often thought of as “weirdos” by others who didn’t experience the world in quite the same way they did. Actually, they still make that distinction, and for the same reasons.

The “good weird” is, essentially, what the term quirky describes—how those who fit the description are seemingly “offbeat” because they’re marching to the beat of their own drum; seemingly idiosyncratic or eccentric because they know their own minds and preferences; seemingly flighty and/or daydreamy because their thoughts are so rapidly making novel connections and creating new patterns.

As a family, we’ve really enjoyed the music of “Weird Al” Yankovic for many years. I think we all appreciated, first of all, that he embraced his “good weirdness” by using the moniker as part of his professional identity. Second, his work is novel. Sure, song parodies have been around forever, especially in summer camp skits and on school playgrounds, but Al’s parodies are brilliant in a way that others are not. The topical themes he imposes on existing songs, the way he fits his words to the exact rhythms of the songs, the range of vocal styles he’s able to perform, and the expert musicianship of his band… well, it’s quite amazing and a whole lot of fun!

Al Yankovic is fortunate that he was able to take in his quirkiness and make it work with and for him. Unfortunately, many gifted kids and adults have heard (or inferred) the term weird used as an aspersion toward them. Since they already know instinctively that there’s something different about them (but don’t know what or how), they assume those differences make them wrong, bad; bad-weird.

A few years ago, I created a presentation that I like to give to groups. It’s titled We’re Not Weird… We’re Gifted!”  I gave it this title after an adult client in one of my support groups told me she’d made this very statement to her own mother after about the fourth meeting of our group. Through the weekly group discussions with other very bright, intense, highly-sensitive, quirky adults, she had found out that her own qualities were not wrong or bad; it’s just that she experienced her inner world in a way that is qualitatively different from the way that most others do. She discovered that her quirky way of being in the world wasn’t something to be “fixed” any more than the more normative way of being in the world needs to be “fixed.”

It’s important for gifted kids—and definitely not too late for gifted adults!—to learn about, accept, and embrace their own quirks. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had over the past twenty years who’ve told me they “just want to be normal” or wished that their kids could “just be normal,” and how many times I’ve had to tell them (as gently as possible) that their intensity, their sensitivity, their quirkiness wasn’t going away. Fighting its existence is futile, and an exercise in misery.

My suggestion: be like Al – make your quirkiness work with and for you! I promise, you can be your shiny, quirky self, and find a place of joy in our ever-challenging world.