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On a bitterly cold day in Carrollton, Texas, I was forced to take the walk of shame. I was in 2nd grade, and we had all hoped for a snow day, but alas, the weather did not cooperate, and school was in session. Being a caring mom, my mother forced me to wear long pants under my dress. Not tights, or cutesy little girl panty hose (actually, they hadn’t been invented yet), but ugly, long woolen pants! I was mortified.
Now, my best friend Susan and I were the super nerds of our grade school, and it didn’t bother me one bit to make the top grade on a science project or get two gold stars on a poem I had written. Being a nerd was kind of cool. But wearing long woolen pants under my dress was much worse than nerdy. This fell into the dork, dweeb, dufus, weirdo level. I hated my mom that day. If Susan’s mom had made her wear pants under her dress, I could have handled it better, but she came to school clad in her fur-collared heavy coat, a long sleeve dress, and cute bobby socks. Of course, being the sweetheart that she was (and still is) she tried to console me by telling me how cold her legs were, and that she wished she had long woolen pants on, to stay warm. It didn’t help much, but it was a good try. My stomach hurt all day long, and I wanted to go home and hide. But we were doing a cool art project that involved gluing cotton balls on a piece of paper to make a snowman, and I didn’t want to miss that. So I persevered through the shame.
You know what? If I was super industrious with my follow-through for this blog post, I could text all the classmates in my 2nd grade class, and I’ll bet not a one of them would remember that awful day and how I was dressed. Nobody made fun of me. Nobody de-friended me on the playground. Very few of the kids even noticed how I was dressed.
According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, historically, being a part of a group or tribe is critical to survival. Okay, nowadays we may not need the approval of others to actually survive, but caring what others think of us is important, entirely natural, unavoidable. Folks with low self-esteem who had no nurturing support as they grew up, are more likely to care too much what other people think of them.
None of us can ever completely overcome our need to be accepted, but here are a few tips that might help.
1. Accept that everyone will have opinions about you. If you have ever had a troll criticize you on social media, you know that not everyone will consider you adorable. Brace and prepare yourself ahead of time for negativity.
2. Know that you are not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Perfection is impossible. You will spend your life miserably if you are constantly striving to be “the best.”
3. Don’t try to “mind read” what others are thinking about you. Chances are it will be wrong.
4. Consider the source. ‘Nuf said.
5. You are usually your own worst critic. I know that I am much harder on myself that others are. And even though we are constantly bombarded by messages proclaiming how important the first impression is, if you botch it, one slip up will probably not mar how others perceive us.
6. Surround yourself with supportive people. The older I get, the more I refuse to hang out with what I call “toxic” people. Period. Develop relationships with people who recognize your true self and are supportive regardless.
7. Be slow to judge others. Whenever you meet someone new, try to hold off casting blanket judgements about them. Even if the first impression is not so great, give them a chance.
So even though I still shiver a bit every time I think of that fateful day in 2nd grade, I lived through it. And even though wearing pants under dresses, is not my preferred fashion statement, I do wear tights with tunic tops all the time.
And, most importantly, I’m working on being comfortable with myself, not really caring what others think. Ask Capt’n Clean, on the days that I sit behind a computer and don’t comb my hair. He’ll be glad to tell you all about it.
Friends follow and forward Wimpy Girl.. (Hint, hint)
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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.