Updated: Jul 17, 2020
At my age, I have no idea what the cool kid’s expressions are. I posted something recently and was mortified when a young person replied:
“I feel personally attacked.” I couldn’t imagine what I’d said that was so offensive. Fortunately, I have some young friends who clue me in. They explained that inexplicably, that term is a parody in pop culture meaning, “I identify that that is true for me and I need to take a look at that.”
These same young people often thank me for “holding space”, which I think is simultaneously wonderful and sad. Ideally, it wouldn’t be rare that we help folks feel safe enough to just be who they are, but it is.
“I try my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you to be just like them.” – Bob Dylan
Dylan sang that 55 years ago. We still have a long way to go.
Most everyone I love is a social misfit. Some of us try to conform and/or pass for normal but many of us don’t have that option. It saddens me how many folks have said to me in therapy, “I wish I were invisible. That would be safer.”
I get it. Standing out leaves us feeling vulnerable and exposed. Even being appreciated, recognized, or complimented isn’t comfortable for my people until we’ve experienced a ton of growth and healing. What troubles me is that trying to be invisible means playing small, not being assertive, or even having a voice.
I quote Maggie Kuhn often, “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
And take up space – lots of it. Claim your truth, live by your own standards, and invest progressively in yourself. Develop a strong identity and work to become secure in it.
Embrace dignity. Be awkward AF. Make mistakes. Learn from them. You’re a work in progress. Be patient with yourself as you are with those you care about. Use the Golden Rule in reverse.
Eventually, you will become secure enough to deliberately stand out. Our concerns about what others think fall away as we allow ourselves to be valued by kindred spirits and as we internalize what they experience about us.
I promise you are far better than you believe you are.