“Be yourself-your real friends will love you for who you are.”
I needed a little inspiration for today, so I looked to 261 Writing Sparks to Get You Writing. One of the sparks asked, “What is something you know now that you didn’t know when you were younger?” and the answer came to me in the middle of Claire’s (yes, the kid’s store that carries every trinket under the sun).
My ten year old daughter is anxiously awaiting a sleepover party at her friend Anjali’s house this evening. As soon as I walked through the door from the gym this morning, she was waiting-bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, purse in hand to head off for our shopping trip to purchase Anjali the perfect present. Where else, but her beloved Claire’s. (I have other feelings about the store, but that’s for another Slice).
As she made her sixteenth loop around the 8’x10’ space, her eyes lit up when she saw the sign, “Be yourself-your real friends will love you for who you are.” She knew she had to buy it from the moment she laid her eyes on it.
What is something I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger? Yep-that’s it. I tried desperately to fit in by wearing the “in clothing”-Bennetton, Guess, GAP, regardless of the cost. When the “in crowd” would mock kids they thought were unpopular (for reasons I still don’t get), I’d play along, knowing the whole time I was crushing someone else’s ego, but selfishly wanting the approval of Melissa, Carla and the other cool girls. It took years and years for me to realize that trying to be someone else did not bring me happiness, nor true friendships. I never felt lonelier and always felt as if there was an empty void in my life. I watched my back always and never confided in a friend because I never trusted that what I’d share would remain a secret. I watched all too often the in-crowd sharing top secrets of others like the way you’d talk about the weather.
I do not know exactly when I began realizing this was not who I wanted to be, but I think maturity and confidence made the difference. When I began being myself, I felt like a new person-I had friendships that were meaningful, I stopped ignoring other children that I thought were unpopular and began realizing that popularity meant nothing but being part of a bubble for a short period of my life. When I remained in that bubble, I closed myself off to others that were like me and that could have become true friends, liking me for who I was, not what I wore or the out of character things I’d do to impress. As an adult, I realize popularity can be meaningless.
My daughter has a true gift (which I may write about in a future Slice). When I asked her how she felt about not being included in a “BFF CLub” when she was in second grade, her reply was beautiful! “Mom, why would I want to be part of that?! They’re mean, they leave other kids out and I do NOT want to be part of any club that would treat other kids that way!” While I secretly worried about who would be friends with my sweet Grace because she wasn’t included in the “BFF Club”, she was off being herself, finding real friends who love her for who she is.