Very early in our lives we are told, “just be yourself”.
As we walk into the world of pre-school and kindergarten we are given training wheels for developing a solid self-esteem so we don’t tip over under the weight of judgment and criticism. We are taught to be proud of who we are through the rhetoric of musical self-affirmations. We are told how special we are, each and every one of us. We’re special… just like everyone else.
We then migrate into the age of learning mathematics and history. Along with those lessons come the expectations on how much we need to learn, on how well we demonstrate the knowledge imparted to us, on our capacity to be the memory savant during the next 45 minutes of test taking. We are still told the value of being unique and special and being proud of who we are, but on the terms that are laid out before us.
We then reach that pivotal, critical, and oh so awkward tween, pre-teen, and teen age, where mob mentality is minimum expectation, where group think, conformity and social indoctrination are paramount to survival. The mere thought or possibility of ostracization from the social standards can lead to significant scarring of self worth. As the grade levels increase, thus the education and socialization expectations along with them, the greater the stakes, the further removed we become from heralding our uniqueness. The nursery rhymes that incite the dance of self esteem become faint echoes of a melody we barely recall, the words lost under a heap of an imperative to socially conform.
This is my own battle as I move parts of my own self-expression from box to closet to safe. If I haven’t seen my ideas or interests endorsed by the plot threads of prime time television, I dress it up in camouflage so as not to garner sideways glances and wrenched up left eyebrows. I do a bit of mental eeny-meeny-miney-mo as to whom I will divulge such ideas as spirit guides and tarot cards and my interest therein. I whisper these ideas to social organizations into which I tiptoe, forums that welcome us with cute nomenclatures written on our “Hello my name is” stickers, groups of friends that discuss these ideas in attics with other Anne Franks of the esoteric spirituality sect.
Then this is where I wake up. This is who I am. What is the price of rebuff? To be spurned by those that do not embrace my ideology? Is that to say it is important for me to be embraced by people who would not accept or understand me outright? Or simply to be embraced by people regardless? Along with my subcultural interests I bring compassion, kindness, humor, warmth, lightness, and honesty to the table. If all those wonderful and positive aspects of my character are dismissed offhand due to being nervous that I may cast a narcoleptic spell upon them that calls for an amphibian kiss as the antidote, then in all actuality I myself am being dismissive of my own character and all those positives therein.
So I therefore relieve all others of the responsibility of having to accept me for what I bring to the table. I let them off the hook, therefore I let myself off in turn.