I recently enjoyed Brene Brown’s six part podcast series with her sisters. They talked about The Gifts of Imperfection and also broke down their personal guidepost results from The Wholehearted Inventory.
So, I took the inventory for myself.
And that’s where I saw it. On the spectrum of “Being cool and always in control” versus “Laughter, song, and dance” – I’m about 50/50 but definitely closer to the “being cool” side of life.
Life teaches us lessons. And sometimes, we have to learn those lessons over and over again.
As a competitive dancer growing up, being silly was my jam with my dance friends. Our dance instructors would sometimes be the ones on the road with us, driving us to and from competitions. I can remember them laughing and giggling with us. They encouraged our fun and ridiculous antics. Once during a dark car ride home as a middle schooler, after a hysterical laughing fit while making voices and singing made up songs, one of my teachers said, “Meghan, promise me, you won’t ever change.”
But life can take a toll on a person. That same year, I was teased for being very skinny. I was called a “freezer” because I wasn’t physical with my 7th grade boyfriend. A group of boys once kicked my glasses (which were inside of the case) out from under me when my hands were in my locker. I never got them back. I was given a hard time for wearing wrestling shoes to school which were a big trend in the competitive dance world.
Junior high was rough.
But somehow, I made it out on the other side in high school. I joined the cheerleading squad, figured out more about how to put myself together, and suddenly, I started to feel like I fit in. Like I was “cool.” But I never forgot how junior high felt.
And to this day, I’ve never forgotten how high school felt. How it felt to be “cool.”
Now, I find myself in a role where I’m serving middle and high school teachers, administrators, and students. And on our district’s opening day together, instead of wearing what I wanted to wear, I wore what I thought everyone else would be wearing. I have this fun, colorful plaid dress that has a big ruffle down the side. It is professional and yet different. And I wanted to wear it with some leopard shoes and fun lipstick. It’s a very “me” outfit. I love dressing up.
But I worried people who were meeting me for the first time would judge me. I worried people wouldn’t like me.
So, I settled on a pair of jeans and a gray sweater blazer.
And this has got me thinking. What other things do we do or say or not do or say as adults because deep down we want other people to think we are cool? How many times do we not speak up, agree, blame or complain, because we are more worried about being accepted than being good for this world?
At the end of that same district day, I changed and went out for a walk. And I ran into a woman I had never seen before who looked stressed. No one else was around in the middle of this park; she walked right up to me to ask if I had seen a pair of keys.
She had lost her car keys during her run.
Ugh, how terrible. I told her that I would stay with her until we found them and surely we would because there had been no one else in sight for some time now…no one could have picked them up.
We made small talk and enjoyed each others company, and she seem relieved to not be in her search alone.
Suddenly, from a distance, I could see a small pile of what looked like keys on the sidewalk in front of me. I said, “Kendra! I think I found them! If these are it, we are going to dance and celebrate!” Sure enough, those were her keys and I couldn’t help but cheer and skip around and dance momentarily with glee.
She laughed and asked if I would wait while she got her business card out of her car, so we could stay in touch.
It was the best part of my week.
Not just because helping people makes you feel good, but also because I felt like myself. Not the “cool” version of myself but the – it’s cool to be yourself- version of myself.
And if this is hard for adults, imagine how hard it is for kids.
So, if you are a teacher and someone on your staff is clearly not like everyone else. Someone clearly does not dress like other people, live their life like other people, or act like other people, remember that it takes courage for people to be themselves. It takes courage to center being true to ourselves when we risk not belonging.
For kids and staff alike. And our students are always watching. They watch how we treat all kids. They also watch how we treat each other, and how we we treat ourselves.
Kids are watching whether we prioritize being cool over experiencing joy.
Being cool is overrated. Being ourselves is magic.
And the world needs more of that right now.
Notice and wonder about situations that tempt you to prioritize being cool over being yourself. How might you bravely say yes to joy in those situations instead?