Being The Person You Want To Be (Self-Esteem & Fitting In)

It seems to me that too many of us have forgotten we’re not in high school anymore; and it’s making most of Life’s student population unhappy.  

In high school, everything revolves around “fitting in.” Adolescents are basically children in bigger bodies (with some hormones sprinkled in).  If one does not fit in, one does not get to play in all the reindeer games. It’s lonely not to be allowed to join in with the others, and no one wants to be lonely.  Even the youngest of children understands this fact of Life.  From the time we are toddlers, we all have a burning desire to share experiences, to give and receive attention and affections, to be liked and valued — to matter . . . to be loved. By the time we reach high school, we understand these needs (at least conceptually), and we start developing strategies for getting those needs met.  We’re just not exactly sure how to go about it.

About 2 weeks into their freshman year, most high school students figure out that the more they “fit in,” the greater the benefits and privileges — and this makes it much easier to get all those things they need to feel like they matter . . . to feel loved.  With only a few exceptions (those who usually end up being prom king and queen), most of the students find that “fitting in” with the entire student population is not going to be possible because they just cannot be everyone’s favorite flavor of ice cream and adolescents have a tendency to be, well, judgmental.  To most adolescent eyes, anything “different” is unacceptable.  They haven’t learned yet how to accept anything they don’t understand and “different” is very hard to understand.

Emerge here the existence of cliques.  Those  smaller groups of people who are very much the same flavor of ice cream.  They wear the same clothes, they “hang out” in the same spots, they talk the same, they act the same . . . and, as a result, there is very little tension among them.  In the clique, everyone fits in and it feels very comfortable.  Generally speaking, there’s a clique for everyone.  I’ll probably show my age here . . . but – there are “the jocks,” “”the preps,” “the geeks,” the “pot heads,” the “hicks,” “the freaks,” and so on.  Something for everyone; and most everyone ends up finding the clique that’s right for them.

Soon, however, all the students discover that, no matter how well things are going in the clique, they still feel like they don’t “fit in” because their clique isn’t accepted by everyone else or because not everything about them fits into the clique – if they were really showing all of themselves to those around them.  If they are a jock, they can’t be seen at a Chess Meet (even if they love chess); if they are a geek, they can’t go out for the football team (even if they’re strong and fast); and so on and so on.  It’s not only limiting, but it can be lonely and frightening because of the “secret” they have to keep — the secret that there’s more to them than people see.

Even the most popular kids feel lonely much of the time because being popular means they have to hide a lot of who they really are from other people.  They know, on one level or another, that the reason they are so well liked by so many people is because most of the people don’t really know them  at all — they only see the outer persona (the image of something that may or may not exist within the person behind the mask).  So, they live in fear much of the time – fear that the other kids will find out their secret, the secret that they are human too . . . that they are not perfect.

It’s all quite fascinating really and makes for great movies that touch the heart and make the underdog look like a hero.  But very few of us would choose to go back and relive high school again.  I was probably more fortunate than most because I changed high schools many times.  As such, I had the opportunity to try on several different cliques; and, if one didn’t suit me, I’d choose a different one at the next high school.  I was blessed, I suppose, to have the camillion quality that allowed me to make that choice; but it didn’t make high school one bit more enjoyable for me — I’ll tell you that.

The point of all this is that most of us are not in high school anymore.  We’re out here in the “real world” trying to earn a living, find and keep mates, take care of families, and more.  These are extremely challenging and time consuming (and often frustrating) tasks to accomplish.  And, on top of all of that, we’re also trying to find purpose and meaning for our lives . . . to be happy, to find joy, and more.  We need to experience all of these aspects of being human to find peace and to find fulfillment – to feel complete.

What we have discovered, however, is that being grown up is even harder than being in high school!  First response = Bummer!  But, we learn and grow with the passage of time and experience.  Eventually, we begin to take our lives into our own hands, even if it means not always fitting in.  That’s when things really start getting interesting.

The older and wiser we become, the more we realize that accomplishing all of these worthwhile goals involves a whole lot of letting go of the things that allow us to “fit in” with the majority.  And that isn’t always easy.  In fact, it’s pretty darn hard.  It means becoming more self-aware and identifying those aspects of our egos that are inconsistent with our dharma; it means facing the fears that inhibit us; it means accepting ourselves and other people, regardless of differences and imperfections; and it means finding the courage and strength to be the person we want to be, even if that person doesn’t get to be the king or queen of the prom.

None of this is simple or easy; but, oh, is it worth it.  As spiritual beings living in human bodies, we have the very spiritual gift of experiencing Life in ways that are absolutely magical and enchanting — if we so choose.  Yes, there will be many times when all is not well in our enchanted kingdom. There will be dark times when it seems the villains are about to reign or the kingdom might perish all together.  But, there will always be a hero and there will always be the sense of unity that the dark times create.  The kingdom will be restored, again and again — no matter what.  The secret is to understand that it is the wide variety of experiences we have in the kingdom (with all its different kinds of characters) that makes it such an incredible adventure to be alive.

As you journey along on your own adventure (both creating and experiencing the Life you want to live), I would encourage you to remember a few words from some of the most “popular kids” in history.

“Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future.”— Marcus Aurelius

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” — Samuel Johnson

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”  — Abraham Lincoln

“May you live every day of your life.” — Jonathon Swift

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” — Charles Chaplain

“None but ourselves can free our minds.” — Bob Marley

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

“Trust yourself.  You know more than you think you do.” — Benjamin Spock

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” —  John Lennon

© 08/07/12

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20 Comments

  1. Informative and helpful !

    Reply
  2. Beautifully stated, thank you!

    Reply
  3. Glad you enjoyed it! Blessings to you, my friend. S

    Reply
  4. Great post and fine quotes

    Reply
  5. Very well said! And so true! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! Stopped by your blogsite and enjoyed your work too. Many blessings, Sloan

      Reply
  6. Love the quotes, especially the one by Oscar Wilde. It wasn’t until college when I realized it was okay to be me. High school is rough, but a good learning experience.

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed the post! Oscar Wilde is one of my favorites too. Many blessings, Sloan

      Reply
  7. amazing post and quotes.

    Reply
  8. Gina's Professions for PEACE

     /  August 12, 2012

    Beautiful article, thank you! I too was able to move many times and ‘try on different cliques’. And as hard as High School was, it is harder now. But as you wisely put it, it is oh so worth it! I love your line of: “The secret is to understand that it is the wide variety of experiences we have in the kingdom (with all its different kinds of characters) that makes it such an incredible adventure to be alive.” Incredible. Thank you so much Sloan, for your article and quotes. Love and light, Gina

    Reply
  9. I never knew how to be “fake” to fit in, even as a kid/teenager. I’ve always expressed who I really am, but it caused me a lot of heartache. When people didn’t love me for me, I took it hard … for many years. Now, well, I don’t take it so personally anymore. Some people just don’t ‘get me’ and that’s okay, I don’t ‘get’ some other people either. Sometimes it gets lonely, and it’s in those times I remind myself that I am the child in whom God is well-pleased. Thanks for the thoughtful blog post.

    Reply
    • Lori, thanks for reading and thanks for sharing. I can identify with your comments and have told more than one putative new friend, “I’ll let you be You, if you’ll let me be Me.” Most often, they think about it for a second and then say, “Okay.” It seems like a relief to them, as well. Also, we all get lonely sometimes; and, as synchronicity would have it, I had just started writing a post about dealing with loneliness this morning. I’ll take your comment as a wonderful affirmation that the topic is ripe. Hope you’ll have time to read it, once I’m finished and post it.
      In the interim, have a magnificently wonderful week and keep being your savvy, beautiful self!
      Blessings, love & light,
      Sloan

      Reply
  10. debra

     /  April 4, 2013

    Sloan what a beautiful person you are..

    Reply
    • Debra, what a kind and wonderful compliment. Thank you, so much, for making my day! Have a beautifully blessed weekend! 🙂 Love & Light, S

      Reply
  1. Fitting In | Good Morning Gratitude

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