We all want to feel OK. We want someone to tell us that our dress looks nice, that our haircut works and our cooking skills are decent. That we are good parents. That what we do makes a difference in the world.
Day in and day out, we get all these messages from the media telling us how to think, feel, act, walk and even talk! I remember the facebook group I joined years ago that was called, "I judge you when you use poor grammar". What an ass I was back then.
If I've learned nothing else from this past year, I learned the universal need to feel included, to not feel weird, to feel OK. Belonging and acceptance are things we all need and crave, no matter who we are. Whether it's my LGBTQ friends who just had a baby and got asked some wacky questions or my heterosexual friend who painted her son's toenails yellow while on vacation this summer.
Wait. I'll slow down for a second.
Yes, she's heterosexual and cisgender (meaning, her birth sex and her chosen gender are a good fit for her) and she painted her sons toenails. He's two and adorable and he saw his mom using a brush with colored paint and wanted in on that fun. Um, sounds like something any kid would do when something that looks like art supplies are around, right? Right. And for some of my queer and queer-friendly pals, this is like a no-brainer. Freedom of gender expression at age two? Why not?!
But this was the response my friend got:
"Oh my God. His toes are painted"
"Ehhh, how does his Dad like that?"
Not only were these people judging her choices as a parent, they were also making (negative) assumptions and assertions about her friends. Not cool.
Many people in the LGBTQ community spend a lot of time focusing on the courage it takes to be themselves. There is a lot of focus and talk about the challenges people face just waking up and being our amazing selves each day. Add different identities to the mix like race, physical abilities and class, and the challenges multiply.
We all want to feel OK and be treated with respect.
And everyone else feels the same way, LGBTQ or not. The courage it took for my friend to paint her son's nails is the same courage anyone needs to face any sort of rejection. She probably knew that she'd get a different reaction from folks that day than if someone more open-minded were sitting there beside her, cheering her on and telling her she missed a spot, but she took a deep breath and did it anyway. It was an expression of who she is, as a person.
Her need to feel ok is the same as my friends, a lesbian couple, who adopted a baby, recently. Instead of the normal questions like, "so, how much does he weigh? is he sleeping through the night?" they got asked things like, "so, which one of you is the man?"
That's another post for another day.
But hopefully you get the point. Putting yourself out there takes guts, no matter who you are. We all want to be OK and there's really no hierarchy when it comes to vulnerability, shame and the desire to feel accepted and included, exactly as we are.
Brene Brown is rocking this topic like a champ, lately, so if you need more inspiration around shame, I highly recommend her work.
and while you're clicking around, go visit my friend Michelle Pfennighaus, the toenail painter I mentioned, and send her some love for being her brave, authentic self. Her website is right here: http://findyourbalancehealth.com/
If we all want the same thing, what are you doing to help make it happen? Are you focusing so much on your own feelings of fitting OUT that you are missing how connected you are to others?
Do you think you can change the world, one person at a time, just by being yourself?
I'm doing a lot of work on this lately, so I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Please share below.