One of the worst things you could be called—particularly in school—was weird. Odd. Strange. A freak. Which is why most of us tried to conceal our eccentricities. Which is why most of us conformed.

Maybe we wore masks, projecting images of ourselves that couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe we contorted and distorted ourselves. We messed with our physical appearance, dieting our way to a smaller size, so we’d finally be accepted. We pretended to like and dislike the things others liked and disliked. We pretended to have the same opinions and habits. We altered ourselves depending on who we were with at the time.

We yearned to fit in. We yearned to belong. So we hid. And reshaped. And revised. Ourselves.

Or maybe you didn’t do any of these things, but you still felt shame for who you are. You still berated yourself for being too sensitive, too silly, too loud, too talkative, too nerdy, too wrong.

In short, you didn’t accept yourself. And you certainly didn’t celebrate yourself, and the traits that made you different, and, well, weird. In fact, you didn’t even think of it.

But why not celebrate? Why not own who you are, the weird parts, the silly parts, the quirks?

Of course, embracing ourselves takes time and effort (and sometimes some therapy). Simply saying it—I will embrace myself—doesn’t magically mean you will. Or does it? Saying aloud that you’re working on embracing yourself exactly as you are is the first step. It’s a good, solid, important first step. Because you can start today. You can start this afternoon. You can start right now.

How?

In the new interactive book You’re Weird: A Creative Journal for Misfits, Oddballs, and Anyone Else Who’s Uniquely Awesomeself-taught illustrator Kate Peterson shares a slew of inspiring, uplifting, playful, super creative ideas.

For starters, here’s a beautiful quote from van Gogh that Peterson includes: “Normality is a paved road. It’s comfortable to walk. But no flowers grow on it.”

Below are some of my favorite prompts from the book (it was tough to pick favorites, because the book is filled with fantastic stuff):

  • Write about what’s unique about: your home; your family; the way you were raised; how you got to where you are today; your sense of style; the way you see the world.
  • Based on your personality and traits, what kind of drink; dance move; cheese; junk food; color; constellation; and mythical creature would you be?
  • Write about your mission “for this weird and wonderful life.”
  • Write about your weird family traditions.
  • Write about the weirdest thing you did as a child.
  • Think about a moment you felt out of place as a child. “What would you tell your younger self now?”
  • Jot down your favorite fictional or real weirdos from books. Write about what makes them weird and why their weirdness is awesome.
  • Write about the weirdest conversation you’ve ever had; the weirdest piece of clothing you’ve ever worn; the weirdest idea you’ve ever had; and the weirdest thing you’ve said out loud.
  • Pick a favorite unique trait. “What would your life be like without it?”
  • Doodle and marvel at all the things that come out of your brain.
  • Fill a page with “things you see that prove Mother Nature’s a weirdo, too.”

Embracing ourselves is an ongoing process, with good days and bad days and everything in between. But the great news is that we can start at any time (without changing ourselves). And we can use fun, playful tools—like Peterson’s prompts—to help us and kickstart the process.

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash.