Who We Are Instead of Who We’re Supposed to Be

You know the girl who owns every room she enters? Whether she’s walking into her first college exam or meeting up with a girlfriend for drinks, she always carries herself with style, grace, and confidence. She’s the girl who rocks a messy bun, oversized sweater, and sneakers pulling it off as artfully as a traveling celebrity. I learned early in life that though I know that girl, I’m not that girl. I’m more like her frumpy acquaintance whose lack of enthusiasm gives others something to laugh at or, at the very least, something to mock. Though I’m the awkward, dull girl whose mediocrity rings loud throughout daily tasks and responsibilities, I shine a lot brighter when I accept who am as enough, rather than pouring myself into a mold of a stranger. Life starts making more sense when we focus on who we are instead of who we’re supposed to be.

I tripped my way through high school as the blunt, sarcastic girl in the corner. I can remember the rush of freedom that ran through my veins as I walked across the football field (the way we graduated in the good old days) to receive my ticket out of high school and my mundane life as I had known it. I can only imagine the silent sigh of relief my mother and older sister simultaneously released as I gradually transformed my weird clothing choices to an edgy, trendy (much less embarrassing) style as I faced a collegiate social life. While my style did transform a bit alongside the changes of my heart, thoughts, and ideals, I never could quite find a balance of self while swimming in a pool of exquisitely bubbly girly girls. Early freshman year, I strutted out of a job interview dressed to impress in all back and gray (but tastefully done). One of my girlfriends from high school invited me to visit with her in her dorm before she left for an event holding some importance to campus Greek life (I’ll limit the details due to my total ignorance regarding these events). I remember feeling a surge of confidence as I wore a nice skirt, blouse, and heels that fit like a glove, and I had just landed a cushy job. Every drop of confidence suddenly evaporated as I entered the hallway of my friend’s dorm. All I could see were various hues of pink and floral. Hairspray and perfume clouds filled the entire building (confession: I now at least have one mutual friend to those girls because hairspray is my BFF). All I could hear were giggles and stilettos clacking from room to room. I felt so mediocre, exposed, and out of place. I made some lame excuse about needing to hurry out, but the truth was I just felt uncomfortable in my own skin. To be transparent, the feeling I experienced that day as an outsider in a crowd of colorful females continues to serve as a social barrier in my daily life both personally and as a mother of three girls. I have an issue with replacing different with less when I compare myself to those around me. Much of the pressure (most of the pressure) I feel welling inside in these moments are fabricated by me. I just think I’m too mediocre to join the crowd. Simple decisions, such as choosing an outfit, cause so many individuals to shut down and obsess over flaws. I know too many people who not only fight those pressures fueled by self-doubt, they’re fighting real battles against bullies or even family.

I have a dear friend who I’ve known most of my life whose journey to find herself leaves me inspired to fight for the voice of my truest me, no matter how mediocre it might sound. She was the girl who had it all. Her parents had already written her story by providing her with a large, beautiful house, luxury vehicles, name brand clothing, and a respectable social breeding and education, all debt free. She was the wealthy girl, the pretty girl, the smart girl, and the popular girl all in one neatly wrapped package. Throughout our childhood and adolescence, I watched this beautiful girl who had it all battle the demon of who she is supposed to be. Her family placed a plethora of expectations on her, including but not limited to, weight, hairstyle, clothing choice, academic achievement, athletic achievement, social engagements, friendships, career choice, and romantic relationships. She wore these social pressures on her sleeve while she ate like a bird and offered hateful criticisms to the insignificant, mediocre girls such as myself. She would experience moments in which who she truly was grew louder than family expectations and pressures, and in those moments, she was fun, clever, and warm. This beautiful girl learned how to nurture and grow that small voice into the person those in her current life know her to be. She has devoted her life to giving her heart and talents to children in need. She has chosen a career path that is much less glamorous than that which her family expected. She found love and has started her new family in a non-traditional, but no less beautiful way than those in her previous social circle. She’s found happiness and love, and she’s found the volume knob to the voice of her true self. Beautiful girl (you know who you are), you inspire me to continue to grow and learn to love my mediocre self despite social pressures and my own critical voice.

Friends, if you’re not happy, maybe it’s time to be honest with yourselves. Who are you trying to be? Search your heart and spend more time on activities and relationships that make you smile. If it gives you peace, it’s probably a good fit for you. Apply that to your life as you weed out the pain and insecurities. There is no one way to be successful. There is no one way to look. There is no one way to meet milestones and conquer life’s hardships. Do less to make room for yourself to become more. In a world filled with hate, we need to love ourselves and all our mediocre traits that make us who we are. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.

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