On re-reading my last post (why do I do this?), I worried that it sounded like I had given up on connecting with people entirely, which, of course, I haven’t. I have my family and a few close friends that I love and have authentic, organic connection with. I just no longer feel the need to try and fit myself within a group.
This morning, I was writing out an Instagram post for the podcast I’m part of, and I wrote about how being part of a platform where women can share their difficult stories has helped me to become less judgmental of others and less fearful of being judged for my choices. As I wrote, I began to see the connection between my fierce need to belong and my fear of judgment.
If I’m part of a group, then I must be “okay,” because I’ve been accepted. I belong. Even if I maybe have to conform a little to fit within the group dynamic. If I’m just floating out here by myself, I’m much more vulnerable. If I follow my own path, I give up the safety of association with others, and I open myself up much more to criticism. But it also forces me to get comfortable with who I am, as an individual, because I have to be my own friend. I can’t just adapt to the behaviors and patterns of the group. There’s freedom to step out and decide who I want to be, what’s important to me, and how I want to spend my time.
Last night I was talking with my 9 year old on her way to dance class. She has struggled this year with some of the girls in her class, because she doesn’t quite fit in with them. These girls are all slightly older than her, and interested in things that my daughter isn’t familiar with (mainly social media apps), and when she asks about them, in her own words, “they look at me like I’m a freak.” Every week, I have to give her a pep talk on the way to dance class and encourage her to stay true to herself and not worry about what these girls think. I tell her that she is an individual who doesn’t follow the crowd, that she doesn’t have to like or do things just because everyone else does, and that these other girls don’t understand that it’s okay to be your own person. Even if it means some people won’t like you.
There is a mindset in our society that tells us that only certain choices are appropriate, that you have to follow the crowd, that you have to belong. You have to look a certain way, act a certain way, have a good-paying job, get married, have children, go to church, buy a house in the suburbs, drive a nice car. And if you don’t go along, if you don’t follow the formula, if your priorities are somehow different, then you’re a freak. And honestly, fuck that. Because the things that make people different are the things that make them who they are. And when people truly step into who they are as unique individuals, when they put aside the fear of judgment and decide to embrace themselves just as they are, it’s incredible to see.