by Olga Khazan

Olga Khazan explores the concept of being different from the norm, or “weird,” and how that affects individuals in different aspects of their lives. The author delves into the science behind why some people are considered “weird,” the advantages and disadvantages of being weird, and how society can be more accepting of those who don’t fit in.


“Weird” is a thought-provoking and engaging book that challenges the reader to question their assumptions about normalcy and the value of being different. Khazan uses a blend of scientific research, personal anecdotes, and interviews with individuals who have experienced being “weird” in different ways to illustrate her points. She examines the impact of “weirdness” on social interactions, education, career success, mental health, and physical health.

“Being weird is not always a curse, and in some cases, it can even be a blessing. The key is to find the right niche where your oddities are appreciated rather than ridiculed.”


BIG IDEA 1: The benefits and drawbacks of being “Weird”

Khazan explores the advantages and disadvantages of being different from the norm, and how being “weird” can affect various aspects of one’s life. She argues that while being “weird” can lead to ostracism and discrimination, it can also provide unique opportunities for growth, creativity, and success.

One of the main benefits of being “weird” is that it allows individuals to think outside the box and come up with unconventional solutions to problems. People who are “weird” often have a unique perspective on the world and are not bound by the same constraints as those who conform to societal norms. This can lead to innovation in various fields, such as science, art, and technology. For example, Albert Einstein, who was known for his unconventional ideas, revolutionized the field of physics with his theory of relativity.

Additionally, being “weird” can lead to personal growth and self-discovery. People who don’t fit in with mainstream society often have to navigate life on their own terms, which can help them develop a strong sense of self and a deeper understanding of their values and beliefs. This can lead to greater self-confidence and resilience in the face of adversity.

However, being “weird” can also have its drawbacks. People who are different from the norm often face social exclusion and discrimination. They may be bullied, ridiculed, or ostracized by their peers, which can lead to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. This can have negative effects on mental health and well-being, leading to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

Being “weird” can also impact career success. People who don’t conform to societal norms may have a harder time fitting into corporate cultures or may not be taken seriously by potential employers. This can limit their career prospects and financial stability.

The benefits and drawbacks of being “weird” are complex and multifaceted. While being “weird” can lead to unique opportunities for creativity and personal growth, it can also lead to social exclusion, discrimination, and limited career prospects. The key is to find a balance between embracing one’s differences and fitting in with mainstream society. As Khazan argues, a more accepting and inclusive society can help reduce the negative impacts of being “weird” and allow individuals to fully express themselves without fear of judgment or rejection.

BIG IDEA 2: The science behind being “Weird”

What makes people “weird” and how does it affect their behavior and experiences? The authorexamines the role of genetics, environment, and socialization in shaping our personalities and preferences, and how these factors can contribute to being seen as “weird.”

One of the primary factors that influence a person’s tendency to be “weird” is genetics. Research suggests that certain genetic traits can predispose individuals to be more introverted or extroverted, analytical or creative, and adventurous or cautious. For instance, people with the DRD4-7R gene variant are more likely to seek novelty and engage in risky behavior.

Environment and socialization also play a crucial role in shaping personality and behavior. Children who grow up in supportive and nurturing environments are more likely to develop self-confidence and resilience, whereas those who experience neglect or abuse may develop anxiety and low self-esteem. Socialization also influences personality traits, such as introversion or extroversion, and can lead to conformity or nonconformity to social norms.

Moreover, the cultural context in which an individual lives can also impact their “weirdness.” For example, some societies place a high value on conformity, whereas others encourage individualism and creativity. This can influence how “weirdness” is perceived and accepted within different cultures.

Khazan discusses how the concept of “weirdness” is not fixed and can change over time. What is considered “weird” today may not be seen as such in the future, as societal norms and values evolve. For instance, wearing unconventional clothing or hairstyles may have been considered “weird” in the past, but now it is widely accepted. The science behind being “weird” is complex and multifaceted, with genetics, environment, socialization, and cultural context all playing a role. However, it is important to note that individual differences are not fixed and can change over time. Understanding the science behind being “weird” can help us be more accepting and open-minded towards those who don’t fit into societal norms, leading to a more inclusive and diverse society.

BIG IDEA 3: Building a more accepting society

Khazan proposes ways in which society can become more accepting of those who are “weird” and challenges readers to examine their own biases and assumptions. She argues that embracing diversity and celebrating differences can lead to a more vibrant and innovative society.

To build a more accepting society, Khazan suggests several strategies. First, it is essential to increase awareness and education around diversity and inclusion. This includes educating people on the harmful effects of discrimination and unconscious bias, as well as promoting positive representation of diverse groups in media and popular culture.

Another strategy is to create spaces and communities that celebrate diversity and provide support for individuals who feel excluded or different. This can include creating safe spaces for marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ+ youth or people with disabilities, and fostering a sense of belonging through shared interests and experiences.

Khazan also emphasizes the importance of challenging and changing societal norms and expectations that perpetuate discrimination and exclusion. This includes addressing systemic issues, such as unequal access to education or healthcare, and advocating for policy changes that promote diversity and inclusion.

Building a more accepting society requires individuals to examine their own biases and behaviors. This includes reflecting on one’s own privilege and the ways in which it may contribute to systemic inequalities, as well as actively seeking out diverse perspectives and experiences.

Building a more accepting society requires a multifaceted approach that involves education, community-building, advocacy, and self-reflection. By promoting diversity and inclusivity, we can create a society that values and celebrates individual differences rather than fearing or rejecting them. As Khazan argues, this can lead to greater creativity, innovation, and personal growth for all individuals, regardless of their background or “weirdness.”

“Normal is a treacherous word. It pretends to be neutral, but it is loaded with assumptions that have been formed by the long processes of cultural evolution.”


In her book “Weird,” Olga Khazan explores the complex and multifaceted nature of individual differences and how they shape our behavior and experiences. Through her discussions on the benefits and drawbacks of being “weird,” the science behind it, and the importance of building a more accepting society, Khazan challenges readers to examine their own biases and rethink societal norms that perpetuate discrimination and exclusion. “Weird” offers a thought-provoking perspective on how embracing individual differences can lead to greater creativity, innovation, and personal growth for all.

About the Author

Olga Khazan is a journalist and author who covers health, science, and social issues. She is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she has written numerous articles on a wide range of topics, including mental health, the psychology of happiness, and the science of social connection. Khazan has also been a guest on several podcasts and news programs, including NPR’s “Fresh Air” and CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” Prior to joining The Atlantic, Khazan was a staff writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education and a freelance writer for publications such as The Washington Post, Forbes, and The New Yorker. She holds a master’s degree in public health from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

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