There is an adage where if there is a black sheep in every family, and you can’t figure out who it is, you’re it. For many, this prompts hurt feelings, resentment, or a sense that they may never be good enough. A result of a childhood believing these things sometimes means adult relationships that ache: an imagined competition with a lover’s exes, trepidation that a new boss will find out that they’re not really qualified for their job, or an internal muse that reminds them that the odds are stacked against them.
But sometimes, that status can be cherished.
Whether it’s rebelling outwardly – clothes, hair, vehicle of choice – or inwardly, alternative viewpoints or an unusual taste in music, when their status is challenged, the black sheep is at their most comfortable.
Those on the fringe can feel quite at home being the outlier; successfully choosing the atypical, allowing in only those who accept their uniqueness. When pressed to conform – family holidays, office parties and weddings can trigger all sorts of prompting – the black sheep might gracefully extricate, happy to maintain their chosen role, to simply be different.
Celebrating individuality seems to itself have guidelines: the lone wolf must seem at ease in their skin, they likely don’t diminish anyone else’s choices, and generally, they have found success – financial, personal, or within a small community – that allows for full expression of their choices, at least part of the time.
If you’re the black sheep in your social environment, do you embrace it, claim it as yours or shoulder it like cinder-blocks, a burden to carry?