Are you an eccentric? I suspect I am. Maybe I ought to feel bad about it, but I don't.
“That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time”. ~ John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.
Dr. David Weeks is the world's foremost expert on the subject of eccentrics. A highly regarded researcher and great storyteller (he's known as The Laughing Psychiatrist on the BBC), Weeks finds eccentrics to be happier, healthier and more creative than most conformists. Psychologist David Weeks mentions people with a mental illness "suffer" from their behavior while eccentrics are quite happy. He even states eccentrics are less prone to mental illness than everyone else.
“Time and again, the eccentrics in our study clearly evinced that shining sense of positivism and buoyant self-confidence that comes from being comfortable in one’s own skin.”
The first five characteristics listed are the most important and apply to virtually every eccentric. Nonconformity is, of course, the principal defining trait of the breed.
Characteristics of Eccentrics
- Strongly motivated by curiosity
- Idealistic: wants to make the world a better place and the people in it happier
- Happily obsessed with one or more hobbyhorses (usually five or six)
- Aware from early childhood that he is different
- Opinionated and outspoken, convinced that he is right and that the rest of the world is out of step
- Noncompetitive, not in need of reassurance or reinforcement from society
- Unusual in his eating habits and living arrangements
- Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except in order to persuade them to his – the correct – point of view
- Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor
- Often Single
- Usually the eldest or an only child
- Bad speller
According to Dr. Week's Study, eccentrics are:
- Less likely to be addicted to consumer culture than the general population.
- Very unlikely to be substance abusers or alcoholics. Dr. David Weeks “fewer than 30 of the more than 1,000 eccentrics he sampled had been substance abusers or alcoholics.”
- Nonconformity, extreme curiosity and irreverence for the strictures of culture continually resurface as the most distinguishable eccentric traits, and these are indeed qualities that most of us consider admirable.
- They’re permanently non-conforming from a very early age, and there’s a great overlap between eccentric children and gifted children. They develop differently, though.
- The eccentrics become very, very creative but they’re motivated primarily by curiosity. They have extreme degrees of curiosity, and they’re very independent-minded.
- Their other motivation is fairly idealistic. They want to make the world a better place, and they want to make other people happy.
- They have these happy obsessive preoccupations, and a wonderful, unusual sense of humor, and this gives them a significant meaning in life. And they are far healthier than most people because of that.
- They have very low stress. They’re not worried about conforming to the rest of society, low stress, high happiness equates with psychological health.
- They use their solitude very constructively.
Source; "Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness"; David Weeks; Jamie James, ISBN 13: 9780394565651, Publisher: Villard Books, Publication Date: 1995