defend your outlook

Celebrate the parts of your personality that set you apart from "the norm". Who is to say what is "normal"? However, there are always people determined to try and make a normal by grouping together and acting all the same, looking the same and all doing the same things. They define their own normal and treat anyone else outside this normal of theirs as "outside" and therefore "suspect". That's sad and you know it; such people miss out on so much in life – indeed, they live life in black and white and miss the color version with their blinkered vision and reasoning.

Love those parts of your personality that rebel against "being normal" and "being like everybody else". Why cruise through life the way someone else wants for you when you not only want to try a different path but you know that it's the right path for you? Know yourself. What things make you feel that you're quirky? You can never learn too much about yourself, so spend some time writing down the ways in which you feel different from other people and why you feel these are important parts of your own makeup. For example, you may always stop to notice how carefully an architect has crafted designs onto a building while all your friends merrily barrel through the front door, completely oblivious. Or you might find colors that others think clash blend together beautifully when dressing in the morning. Perhaps you prefer to analyze accounting problems at work in visual form by drawing pictures and arrows that bring it all together. Whatever ways in which you see the world differently, note them and don't judge them – just accept them and add them to your list of self discovery. Prepare ways in which to defend your outlook to the world. Being quirky probably means you're going to express opinions and viewpoints that differ markedly from others, you're probably wearing fashion your way and not as current trends insist, and you're doing a lot of things differently from other people. This can lead to a sense of defensiveness and bringing down the drawbridge to stop letting in people who criticize you. Instead of allowing that to happen, think ahead of ways to deal with the criticism and to defend yourself with lighthearted brush-offs that put other people in their place.

Defensive responses will always potentially garner more criticism because people know they've struck a nerve, so focus on not letting people know they've upset you. Learn to ignore, dismiss or simply politely laugh off jibes aimed at your different way of doing and seeing things. The best thing is to keep a sense of humor and treat other people's lack of understanding with lightheartedness, as much for your own happiness as for removing their sense of satisfaction at hurting you. •Write down a list of replies to people if you find yourself tongue-twisted whenever someone criticizes you. Over time, stock standard approaches to replying to people politely become second nature. The more you make it seem that their attitude doesn't impact you, the better.