The other day, on a whim, I walked into a Nothing Bundt Cakes (which, if you ask me, has the most confusing name ever, but that is another thing for another time) for the sole purpose of treating myself. I selected a mini lemon bundt and a white chocolate raspberry (for reference, these minis are about the size of a very large cupcake), and as I was paying, the salesperson asked me if I’d like a fork.
“A fork?!” I scoffed. “What do I look like to you? Do you think I’m just going to go sit in my car and shovel cake into my face? No, of course I am getting these to bring home to my family and share!”
I’m kidding. I didn’t say that. But I imagined him making cake-shoveling predictions about me if I said yes, so I just said:
“No. I don’t need one.”
Then I got into my car and shoveled cake into my face with my fingers.
Granted, I wasn’t actually planning to do this when I declined the fork. But suddenly, as I got in the car, I realized that I just had to try some of this cake right now. And I wished I had that fork. And I realized how silly it was of me to say “no” simply because I feared an opinion. A stranger’s opinion. A stranger who I’ll probably never see again and who truly didn’t care one way or another if I wanted a freaking fork.
The thing is, I do this all the time. Do you?
I am constantly adjusting my behavior based on what I think people expect of me. I know this isn’t healthy, but it’s something I think so many of us struggle with. If we are truly ourselves, will we be accepted? Or will we be judged and rejected?
I feel I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to figure out how to fit in. In 4th grade, I entered public school for my first time after 4ish years of homeschool. After closely observing this new tween species, I began to understand what was accepted, even what was popular. Then, halfway through 5th grade, we moved from our tiny town to a big suburb. I was plopped into a 5th grade where the kids were definitely not the small town kids I knew, and on top of that, they already had their friend groups and would talk about foreign subjects like The Spice Girls or their favorite TV shows (oh yeah, another thing: we never had a TV. As if I needed any more reason to feel like an outsider).
Then, just about as soon as I felt decently comfortable at my elementary school, it was time to switch schools again. This time to scary junior high. There were new social rules to learn here, and I took notes feverishly (not literal notes, as I’m sure that wouldn’t have been cool) and adapted again. I feel as if I acted as a chameleon all those years, changing to fit my environment and blend in. See, in junior high, you don’t yet realize that you are made to stand out. If you do…well, you are way ahead of the game.
Fast forward 20 years and I am finally finding my own skin. I haven’t found all of it yet (gross?), but I’m getting there. I don’t feel that I need to become someone else anymore, and I’m trying to embrace who I am, but I’m also figuring out who exactly that person is. And this environment sure has a way of making it hard to find yourself. Being constantly bombarded with the best things about other people’s lives (or the worst things, or…just…the things) is a surefire way to drown out your own inner voice.
It’s so easy to start to believe that the way things are on the internet and social media is the way we need to become. We forget to look inward, to tune out the noise, and figure out exactly who we are. We start to believe that our houses should be all white, and our kids shouldn’t have colorful toys, and that we should be happy all the time, because it sure seems like everyone else is. We figure out what it takes to be popular, or at least accepted. We try to blend in.
But there’s a you who wants (and needs) to be known. A you who was made to be different than everyone else. There’s a role than only you can fill. There’s a you who wishes she had the boldness to say, “I thought the Spice Girls were just people who liked to cook”, or, “My favorite TV show is Wheel of Fortune,” because that’s what was always playing at your Grandma’s house. You are not like anyone else and that is something to be proud of.
And if you want the fork, get the damn fork.