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S2 EP163 – Embracing Our Quirks

Episode Summary

Are there odd or different things about you that you judge about yourself and try to hide from others? Discover some of the more common quirks and how to start accepting and embracing them.  


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul and Dr. Erika Chopich here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today we want to address welcoming and embracing your quirks – the special ways you are different than most people. People have various quirks that they might feel embarrassed about, even though they are natural to them and can actually be gifts. Here is what Erika has to say about a quirk that she only recently discovered has a name.

(Erika) Our quirks, our idiosyncrasies, are a curious feature to me in the human consciousness and experience. Some people will do anything to hide their quirks, and some people will celebrate them. I believe that self-acceptance includes celebrating our own special unique quirks that make you who you are. I have a quirk that colors my world every day, and fairly recently I discovered that it has a name – pareidolia.

It means that I’m one of those people who sees infinite animals and shapes in the clouds wherever I look. It means that the fan in my room will be morphed by my brain intparty chatter, or sometimes I hear a chorus singing. Sometimes my furnace sounds like music. My brain is hardwired to bring order out of chaos, and this goes on whether I want it to or not.

Pareidolia comes in more than one form. Some people have visual pareidolia and will see faces in or animals in inanimate objects while some people have the auditory wing of pareidolia where they will hear form in noise. And like me you can have both.

I was one of those students who could not study in silence because I was so distracted by background sounds that I could not focus. I was the one who had to have the TV and the radio on, so then I could learn in an instant. This tended to horrify my mother who was a teacher! She truly believed that I could not focus with all that noise and could not understand that silence is a huge distraction to me. Even now, all these years later, I find that I cannot sleep in total silence because I will hear the music of the night, which is really my furnace, or my air conditioner, or my air purified, and so on. But if I turn on the radio low in volume, my brain has that to focus on rather than   random noises and sounds that my brain needs to organize, and I will sleep peacefully. I have found that I can’t listen to music at night because I’ll stay up all night listening, but if I put on some sort of talk radio in the background, I will sleep peacefully and all night long.

I used to feel that I was rather odd that background sounds become something else the moment I hear them. But now I celebrate that quirk because pareidolia as part of my creative process. When I see the walrus, or the horse in the sky galloping by, it opens my creativity. I can feel it when the mixer in the kitchen sounds like a symphony. I’m drawn in and my creativity opens. It’s a quirk that I not only own, but I’ve come to very much appreciate.

Pareidolia made taking tests and exams in classrooms very difficult for me. Classrooms are always kept very quiet during exams, and I would invariably hear an air conditioner or a furnace that would distract me from the written text.  As a young person, it took everything I had to keep focused on the written text in order to function.

At the turn of the century, people with pareidolia were often diagnosed as being schizophrenic because they quote “heard voices” unquote. Can you imagine the confusion and disservice of being labeled that way when it was merely a unique quirk?

Margaret has the same visual form of pareidolia, and from our deck we see who can find the most animals in the clouds, or even in the random shapes of tile in our floor, or the knots in the hardwood floor.

I have another quirk that has served me well my whole life. I have an ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of animals. My cat, Magic, has endless vocalizations, yet I seem to be able to decipher what she’s demanding in any given moment, or what she’s trying to express. I have the same thing with horses and dogs. When I look into their eyes, I know exactly what they’re thinking and feeling. I used to believe that it was a projection of my own feelings onto the animals, and it took me decades to discover that that was not accurate. I actually do know what the animal is thinking and feeling and needing from me at that moment. It is one of my favorite God gifts in my whole lifetime.

If you think for just a moment, I’ll bet you can think of a quirk or two that you might have. What do you do with your quirk? Do you embrace it and celebrate it and see where it leads you, or do you try to keep silent and never share that it even exists?

(Margaret) My son always had to do his homework while watching TV. I allowed it because he was such a brilliant student, but I couldn’t understand it until recently when Erika discovered pareidolia.

The other morning, I opened a carton of eggs to make my breakfast. I looked at the beautiful eggs we get from our local organic farmer. The eggs were all different colors – light green, white, dark brown, light brown, and speckled brown. They were also all different sizes. I felt grateful that I got to look at all the different colors and sizes rather than the same-size, same-color eggs that come in the cartons of store eggs. The thought occurred to me – why is sameness so important to people? Why do they want eggs that are all the same size and all the same color?

I often hear from my clients, “I don’t fit in.” “I’m too different from everyone else.” “I’m an alien.”

“I’m different and an alien too,” I tell them, “and I’m proud of it. I don’t want to ‘fit in’ and be like everyone else. I just want to be me.”

Many of us grew up believing that if we were ‘different,’ there was something wrong with us. In junior high and high school, all I wanted was to be just like everyone else. I never was, but I got good at faking it so that I could fit in.

But as time went on, I found myself very bored with the people I considered quote ‘normal.’ Then I realized that I was equating ‘normal’ with ‘average.’ Did I really want to strive to be average? No! I was never average at anything! I was the type of kid who worked and worked until I mastered something. When my parents bought me a pogo stick when I was about 10, I practiced and practiced until I could jump that pogo stick forever – hundreds of times without ever falling off. I did not know one other kid who could do that. And even though I was the shortest kid my age in our neighborhood, I did the same thing with free throws in basketball. I was the best kid on the block in free throws!

I did this with everything that interested me. Nothing less that excellence would do. But this meant that I didn’t exactly fit in, as few kids I knew were willing to put in that kind of time to achieve excellence.

A few years after starting college, which was over 60 years ago, I read a couple of books on what was going on in our country regarding the food industry. That’s when I threw all the food out of my little kitchen and started to eat only organic. Again, I didn’t fit in. I remember one day when I was in the ceramics lab at UCLA eating yogurt – which is common now but at that time was considered weird – and people were laughingly calling me a health food nut. I WAS definitely devoted to health food, but did that mean I was a nut? I accepted the label and started to call myself a health food nut – with pride! It was years before others caught up enough to no longer think there was something weird or nutty about how I ate. And, sadly, many of the people who made fun of me are either dead from cancer, heart disease, or other degenerative illnesses, or are currently ill and limited in what they can do, while I continue to be healthy and vibrant at 83.

Now, I no longer want to fit in at all. I like being just who I am – different, weird, and alien. As I looked at my beautiful different colored, different size eggs, I felt joy in the differences and joy in my appreciation of my own differences and others’ differences. I love people who cherish their differences, and I really don’t like it when our local farmer is out of eggs, and I have to buy the eggs in a health food store – all the same size and all white or the very same shade of brown. How boring!

There are a number of quirks that my clients have complained about that I want to encourage you to embrace if you have any of these quirks.

One of these is blushing. Many people who have a tendency to easily blush have a fear of blushing.

Amber asked me the following question in one of my webinars:

“If excessive blushing is related to shame or blame, how can it be overcome? Traditional CBT for sure doesn’t work. Super embarrassing when you are in a professional setting. Embarrassing to the point where people ask if I am alright. This has been a problem since I can remember.”

The nervous system, which is responsible for automatic reactions, is not something you have control over, but you do have control over the triggers that set off this automatic reaction.

For example, embarrassment and shame are feelings that are triggered by self-judgment. Perhaps there is a self-judgment that it’s not okay to blush, or not okay to make mistakes. The judgment can trigger the shame that causes the nervous system to respond with blushing.

One thing that might help is to discover what you are telling yourself that is causing you to feel shame or embarrassment. It’s important to understand that it’s sometimes not the situation itself that is causing the blushing, but often what you are telling yourself about the situation.

See if you can tune in to what causes you to feel shame or embarrassment. Do you tell yourself things like:

  • Oh no, I’ve said the wrong thing – again.
  • What will they think of me if I blush?
  • Uh-oh, I’ve messed up.
  • I’m such a jerk.
  • OMG, I’m wearing the wrong outfit for this occasion!
  • I never know what to say.
  • I never know what to do.
  • I don’t want anyone to look at me.
  • I will never fit in.
  • Why can’t I be like everyone else?

Of course, some people tell themselves these things and they don’t blush. Not everyone who shames and judges themselves blushes. However, they still feel awful inside even though it doesn’t show on the outside.

What’s important here is that you become aware of what you are telling yourself that is triggering your automatic blushing reaction.

A common cause of blushing is having a fear of blushing, which is called erythrophobia.

Obviously, if you are fearful of blushing, this can bring about blushing. One way of managing this is to take the judgment off blushing and make it okay to blush. This is not easy to do, but it can break the cycle of blushing from the fear of blushing.

What if you told yourself, “So what if I blush? What’s the big deal about blushing or not blushing? What if when I blush and people ask me if I’m alright, I just say, ‘I’m fine – I just blush easily.’ What if I completely change my concept of blushing and make it into something endearing rather than something to be embarrassed or ashamed of?”

Can you imagine reframing your concept of blushing and accepting it as fine? How do you think you would feel if you made it okay to blush?

This concept can be extended to many different situations. How would your life change if you made it okay to make mistakes, to fail, to be wrong, to make a fool of yourself, to be rejected, or to not know what to say or do in different situations? What if you got yourself off the hook from having to be perfect and made it okay to be human? What if you could laugh at yourself rather than judge yourself when you blushed or messed up?

Just think about how much easier life would be if you were accepting of this or other quirks. Why not try an experiment? Why not make it okay for one day to just be yourself and accept however you are?

Another quirk which, like blushing, may be a challenging quirk to embrace, is excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, and, like blushing, can lead to embarrassment in social situations unless you embrace it and stop judging it.

Like blushing, excessive sweating is an automatic response and not something you have control over. But, as with blushing, you do have control over the triggers that set off this automatic reaction.

What do you tell yourself in social situations that make you feel nervous? How are you not accepting yourself that makes you fearful of others’ not accepting you? Do you judge how you look – such as your height or weight, or whether you are balding? Do you judge yourself for how you dress, or for what you do for work, or for how much money you have? What would happen with the anxiety that triggers your sweating if you valued you for intrinsic qualities – such as kindness, caring, generosity, honesty, integrity, creativity, empathy, and compassion? If you fully and lovingly embraced who you are and defined your worth by your intrinsic qualities, rather than how you look or how you perform, would you be as nervous in social situations?

Another important quirk to fully embrace is high sensitivity, which is actually a great gift.

But many of us, when we were growing up, frequently heard:

“You’re too sensitive.”
“Don’t be so sensitive.”
“Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve.”

When I heard this – over and over – I assumed it meant that there was something wrong with me. Because most other people didn’t seem to have my level of sensitivity, I thought I was an alien.

Reading psychologist Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, was life changing for me. If you haven’t read her book, I strongly recommend that you do, or at least take the free highly sensitive person test, which you can easily find on the Internet.

Dr. Aron has done much research on highly sensitive people. She has discovered that 15-20% of both the human and animal populations are born with nervous systems that are more sensitive to various kinds of stimuli than the rest of the population. This means that 80-85% of people experience life differently than those of us who are highly sensitive, which can lead highly sensitive children to feel very different than other kids and to assume, as I did, that there is something wrong with them.

In indigenous societies, these highly sensitive people were the shamans and medicine men and women. Our left-brain society has diminished the value of high sensitivity and has even ridiculed it.

While being highly sensitive is a gift, it isn’t an easy gift to always be so different than most other people.

Many of the people who are drawn to Inner Bonding are highly sensitive people who had painful experiences regarding their sensitivity during their growing up years. As a result, instead of valuing this wonderful gift, they think there is something wrong with them for their sensitivity. When 80-85% of other people are different than you and no one in your family has learned to value your sensitivity, it is easy to conclude that there is something wrong with you.

I want to encourage those of you who feel that there is something wrong with you because you are too sensitive, to do some reading and learn to embrace this incredible gift. The more you read about and come to understand your high sensitivity, the easier it will be for you to cherish this gift.

Valuing yourself with high sensitivity means that you learn to deeply value your ability to perceive subtle energies – both positive and negative. It means that you deeply value your perception of people’s feelings and moods. It means that you deeply value your rich inner life, and how profoundly you are affected by art or music, and by the environment you are in.

You also need to learn to value how easily you can become overwhelmed, and make sure you set up your life in a way that isn’t overwhelming. Highly sensitive people can become easily frazzled when too much is going on at the same time, or you have too many things to do at once, or people are making too many demands on you at the same time. One of the reasons I’m a list-maker is that knowing exactly what I need to do at any given moment of a workday keeps me relaxed rather than overwhelmed. People around me know that they can’t throw too much at me at once, and they respect this – because I respect it.

Highly sensitive people have different levels of sensitivity in different areas. Some are very sensitive to sound, or to light, or to smells and taste, or to fabrics and textures. Some are highly sensitive to energy – to electromagnetic energy or to people’s energy. Some are highly empathic and are very sensitive to feelings – both human and animal. Some highly sensitive people feel overwhelmed by the energy of having a lot of people around. Some are very tuned into the energy of spirit and have an easy time hearing or even seeing spiritual beings, or to seeing the aura of our soul that is around us.

One of the other things I do is I don’t watch violent movies or the news. I glean news from others, but watching the news can scare me and keep me up at night. My nervous system can’t manage the violence that is generally part of the daily news, nor can I handle hearing about people’s meanness to each other.

I love watching videos of people being kind to a person or animal or to the planet. I’m so moved by these loving actions that I almost always cry watching these videos. I’d far rather be inspired by watching these than agitated by watching the news.

I’m deeply grateful for my high sensitivity because it enables me to do the work with others that I do. While I used to wish I could just let things roll off my back like so many others can, I now fully accept that not being able to do this is part of the package of high sensitivity, and I fully accept this as intrinsic to who I am.

Embracing your quirks means cherishing all aspects of your essence, including your high sensitivity. I hope, if you are a highly sensitive person, that you learn to value this gift in yourself, and if you are not a highly sensitive person, I hope you learn to value this quality in others – particularly if you are partnered with a highly sensitive person.

I want to share with you some of the great value that I have discovered in having high sensitivity.

I was an only child born into parents who both had a very low level of sensitivity. As a result, my level of sensitivity was an enigma to them, and probably a bit scary for them. One of the forms my sensitivity took is being able to deeply feel what others are feeling. When I felt my parent’s feelings and asked them about it, they would get very flustered and go into denial about what I was experiencing regarding their feelings. As a result, I learned to mistrust this empathic ability, and spent many years of inner work reclaiming it.

Now I know that there is no way that I could be doing the work that I do if I did not have high sensitivity to people’s feelings. In addition, while I know that everyone has the ability to access their spiritual guidance through their intent to learn, I have been able to develop this ability to a very high level. In my work with people, I not only hear my guidance, I also hear theirs as well, and am guided by spirit in all my work.

Instead of thinking of your sensitivity as a liability, I encourage you to learn to deeply value and utilize the gift you have been given. You ARE different, but in a very positive way that can enhance your own and others’ experience of life.

It’s important to remember that everyone has quirks, and they’re a natural part of being human. We hope that you practice taking the judgment off your quirks and fully embrace them with love and acceptance.

I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, addictions, and relationships.

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have so much to offer you at our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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