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Creative Maladjustment

What is Creative Maladjustment?

Creative Maladjustment – sounds like fun to me. I’m thinking about artists who just go for it, whether ‘society’ supports them or not.

What do these words conjure up for you?

  • I‘m not mal- adjusted
  • Well, I’m maladjusted, but I’m not that comfortable with it
  • I’m maladjusted and I’m proud of it!

Maybe you have some feeling in-between these. You feel rebellious and happy sometimes, but other times, you feel lonely and wish you fit in better.

The Roots of Creative Maladjustment

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr introduced this concept in a 1967 speech to the American Psychological Association. The 38-year old King had already won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are Dr. King’s words from that speech:

“…there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be, maladjusted if we are to be people of good will.”

His is a moral, human message; one that appeals to me on many levels.

I Long to be Creatively Maladjusted

One of the goals for my life is to fully accepted myself, exactly the way I am, right now. Of course, I have changed (I hope!) a great deal over the years. But my desire for self-acceptance and self-compassion, have remained the same. I wasn’t always brave in looking out for myself. But when I was, I soared.

  • When I asked for and got the part time schedule I wanted at my corporate job, (especially when people told me it would never work.)
  • When I turned away from the religion of my Irish catholic family, because, I felt it separated me from the people who were not the same as me.
  • Today, when I published a book or make art, even though voices tell me I’m “too old.” Through the hard work of looking to accept myself and to work for the things I believed in, I found a way to be true to myself. Deprogramming myself from my environmental and social roots took a lot of energy. Today I know myself to be maladjusted and wear it as a badge of honor.

What is Your Flavor of Maladjustment?

There’s no recipe for being true to yourself. I think this is because I believe I am on a spiritual (not religious) journey. The journey to know and love myself. The immense push back from many corners of my experience, were exactly the barriers that made me who I am today. It may be lonely, but it’s exactly what I need to do.

Whether we stare down the face of bigotry: sexism, racism, discrimination in all its forms, or we are just trying to find ourselves, day be day… the job is the same. Show up for myself.

I want you to know there are others out there, who are just like you. You may not see them, but they are there. Carry that in your heart. I am here, standing by you. We’re in this together.

Image credit: Don’t Be Yourself

Debbie Machine is the author of “An Authentic Human’s Guide to Finding Meaningful Work.” The audio book will be available soon.

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4 Responses
  • Amy
    March 26, 2021

    I find it strangely amusing when people get that feeling that they are too old for something new. I know it’s a common fleeting thought but it’s akin to just saying “I am too old to be happy”. That is crazy talk! We are never too old to be happy and we are never too old to try something new. Although regret for not trying something is ageless.

    I always ask future me on my deathbed what she thinks. I imagine myself on my deathbed and assess the situation, do I wish I had given this a go in hindsight? A bit dark, but from that perception I can so easily weed out what is and isn’t important.

    My Dad is a science-loving sceptic and I recently got into Vedic Astrology seriously. At first he brushed it off as hokum and I agreed and made many a joke about it. To my surprise, we were chatting about astronomy the other day and he brought up little things to help with my astrology. I managed to get my biggest critic to accept my woo-woo dream. Now I know anything is possible haha.

  • Deborah
    March 26, 2021

    Yeah for you Amy! Science skeptics are tough lot of move from their position, so you must have used logic to nudge him in your direction. I appreciate being creatively maladjusted! Thanks for your comment. Keep me up-to-date on your progress. We need to stick together!

  • Jamie Campo
    November 15, 2021

    I really like the idea that the only person you absolutely have to live with for the rest of your life is you. You can cut ties with anyone or everyone if you want to, or need to, or have to but the only person you absolutely have to live with is you. So you need to keep her happy, healthy, safe and cared for. Yes, I have to live with the judgment I get from others if I do something out of the ordinary but I also have to live with the self judgment if I don’t do it and that can be so much worse. I need to do what I believe is right and just even if others don’t care or understand or like it.
    I am studying sociology at JMU currently and one thing you might be interested in is the ways in which social experiences and surroundings change our choices to a huge degree. Specifically I mean the Solomon Asch experiment where he found that people would directly go against what they knew to be true or believed socially just because others were doing it- even in cases as simple as being asked math questions.

  • Deborah
    November 15, 2021

    Hi Jamie, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I don’t know how our educational system could ‘teach’ us this idea from when we are young, but I wish it would.
    I love this..”I need to do what I believe is right and just even if others don’t care or understand or like it.”
    It takes a strong person to do this but also, it takes supporting each other when we’re here. I looked up Solomon Asch as it not something I had heard of before. I am familiar with the concept of “group think” which is similar. I see examples of Solomon Asch all around me, every day. And, I know we are all humans… trying to do our best. I am standing with you on your journey. Thanks for standing with me!

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