I certainly grew up with a lot of the messages kids today do about how I should fit in. The shoulds. In fact my mom to this day will say, “Shoulda White” because there are always things, in her mind, that we should do differently.
Somehow it feels as though the world is trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
At times I think I wanted to fit in, but I never quite did. Yet I never heard the message that this was okay. That not fitting in meant I was being ME! (I will address the distinction I believe there is between “fitting in” and “belonging” next week in Part 3.)
- Girls wore uniform skirts and jumpers at my elementary, middle and high school. Every day I hated that I had to. I fought with my mom all the time about wearing dresses for holidays. I thought I was just different for not liking it. I heard the message over and over that “it’s what girls do”. On the outside I fit in because I had to, but on the inside I didn’t feel I belonged. And it confused me. As an adult, I still talk myself through situations where I’m “expected” to dress up and reassure myself I only need to be me. The messages stay with us…
- I was a highly sensitive kid with alcoholic parents. There wasn’t a lot of tolerance for my sensitivity, my crying, my way of seeing the world, my desire for everyone to just get along. I didn’t fit in with my family’s or society’s “toughen up” mentality. Not showing emotions and competitiveness is how we fit in. So I hardened my heart to protect myself and became the peacekeeper and people pleaser. Today I am recognizing how my sensitivity is one of my greatest gifts ~ but I assure you it’s taken much healing to get to this place!
- In high school I wanted to play sports and didn’t wear makeup or care about boys. Most other girls thought about Homecoming court and Prom and dances. Although I was on Homecoming court, deep down I even hated that because it meant I had to wear a dress. And I hated to dance – I didn’t know how to do it like the other girls seemed to. Again, there were expectations about how girls acted. I certainly didn’t fit in. So I learned to put up walls to keep people from really seeing me.
- I fit in as a student. I got all good grades and worked hard. This was the expectation and I nailed it. But I became a perfectionist who thought if I didn’t get a good grade, it meant I was bad or unlovable. I spent hours and hours doing homework as a child. I often stayed up late at night making sure every letter was perfectly written; that I had every single thing perfect. Oh I fit in. But it cost me a lot of joy and created tension in my body. I spent most of my childhood with stomachaches and anxiety about my need to people please and do it perfectly. Today I still work with healers on releasing the muscles in my stomach I’ve held tight for so long – my way of protecting myself. I had jaw surgery in high school from grinding my teeth at night and clenching my jaw. Again, the way my body thought it was protecting me.
Last week’s article addressed stories of how we are raising kids to fit in and these were my personal examples of how I grew up with this same message. What I’ve come to recognize is how my own experiences prepared me to be able to connect with kids the way I do.
It’s my own journey of not fitting in when I “should” have that helps me know how kids feel.
I now choose to be grateful for my past. But it hasn’t been an easy journey to get to this point. And it isn’t easy for many kids today. But I believe it can be different and it fuels my passion!
So as parents and society want kids to fit in, I know the pain of that very well. I can look at a child who says, “I’m not good like everyone else” and know how that feels in their body, because I felt a similar pain.
I know how much we shut down our feelings and tighten our bodies to protect when we realize we are different and the world says this isn’t okay.
It’s from this place of knowing, that I can help kids learn a different story!! When you know the pain, it’s much easier to tap into it in others and give them hope that the pain or the expectations don’t have to define us.
I‘ve spent years on my healing journey using many different modalities to unlearn the messages that being me was not okay. To heal the pain and sadness that I was different because I heard and felt so many messages that I should fit in. I’ve learned that who I am is exactly who I am meant to be!!! I continue learning this! And with this knowledge, I can assure kids that it is absolutely okay to be who they are! There is far more joy being me, than there is in trying to be like everyone else.
And I would rather fail at following my own dreams, than succeed at fitting in!!!!
Wayne Dyer went on to say that all of us are extraordinary, which he defined as moving beyond just fitting in. I agree with him and would add it’s about being who we are at our core that makes us extraordinary!!
“All of us are extraordinary, we just have to believe it,” he said.
I believe every child is perfectly imperfect. With their own journey to becoming who they are meant to be. With their unique gifts to share with the world. I don’t believe our goal is to fit in. When we fit in, we deny the uniqueness of who we are.
Join me next week for the 3rd part of this Series!! I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments!