BW can read.
BW reads and reads.
BW can read Facebook.
BW reads Facebook, and finds a funny meme.
It is a funny, funny meme.
BW laughs and laughs.
BW agrees with the funny, funny meme.
BW likes and shares the funny meme so that BW’s friends will see that she is an enlightened, progressive woman with a sense of humor and an awareness of current political goings-on.
See BW’s friend!
BW’s friend can read Facebook.
BW’s friend can read the funny meme.
BW’s friend laughs and laughs, and likes BW’s post about the funny, funny meme.
BW sees that her friend has liked her post.
BW feels validated because someone has acknowledged that she is an enlightened, progressive woman with a sense of humor and an awareness of current political goings-on.
Smile, BW, smile!
Speaking of Facebook, a friend of mine shared a quote today from Ram Dass that I found particularly thought-provoking, to wit: “In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight”. I’ll ask you to pause for a second and chew on that; how many times, in your average day, do you say or do something because it will reinforce the image that you have so carefully crafted for other people’s benefit? And how many times do you say or do something because someone else has lived up to the expectations–based on their patterns of behavior–that demonstrates their adherence to the image of themselves that they have created for your benefit?
Before you say “None! I am a completely authentic and transparent person, by gosh!”, let me ask you this: Did you put on makeup today? Have you complimented someone else on their makeup? Are you wearing the clothes that make you look thin, or the shoes that make you look tall, or the understated tie instead of the one with the hilarious hula girls on it?
Have you recently liked and/or shared an article, meme, or funny cat picture because it was making the rounds among your friends and you didn’t want to be the one person who apparently doesn’t think “CANCER SUCKS BUT THIS CAT IS ADORABLE LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU AGREE SMILEYFACE”?
Look, I’m not saying makeup or high heels or understated ties or slimming clothing are a bad thing–we’ve covered that before, how if it rocks your socks, then by all means, go for it. And lord knows I have both liked and shared plenty of “this is funny” and “this is interesting” and “mind = blown” links/images/etc.
But what I am saying is that it’s useful sometimes to stop and reflect on what you’re doing and, most importantly, why you’re doing it. Did you paint your face this morning because you like playing with color, or did you paint it because people expect you to do so? Did you share the link because you actually wanted to, or did you share it because you felt some strange implicit social obligation to do so?
During the forum about bullying, one of the operational definitions we used is that bullying is “anything that makes you feel other-ed”, i.e., something that someone does to draw a big circle around how utterly, utterly Not One of Us you are. And if you think about it from that perspective, it doesn’t take long before you start realizing just how far we’re willing to go to make sure that we are One of Us, that we’re in on all the jokes, that we get all the punchlines. We will change our hair, our clothes, our speech patterns, our religion; we will change our political affiliation; we will join in on gossiping about the Weird Coworker because if we don’t, we risk being seen as weird ourselves.
Pro tip: You’re weird. And I’m weird. We’re all a little weird, and that’s ok. And some of us are a lot weird, and that’s ok too.
So here’s my point, ‘Tracters: it is really, very, totally, completely ok to want to fit in. And it is really, very, totally, completely ok to have different costumes that we wear for different occasions–social protocols like “don’t stink” and “be polite” are there because it is easier for us to work collaboratively if we agree on some ground rules first, so by all means, wear the cocktail dress to the cocktail party and maybe save your comfy pajamas for a staying-home day.
But keep track of who you really are (if you don’t know who that is yet, that’s ok too, and gives you something to think about in your spare time). Wear the things that make you happy in your soul. Like and share the things that actually mean something to you, and which would help a total stranger get to know you better. Speak your truths, spread your love, and show the world your Authentic Self (within reason, of course. If your Authentic Self likes to throw spitballs at people, maybe go ahead and let social convention win that round).
Don’t worry so much about being other-ed, is what I’m saying. Because there is at least one person in this world who accepts you without reservation, regardless of what you’re wearing, reposting, or thinking…and if you spend as much time letting your Authentic Self shine as you do putting on your “costume of identity”, it’ll be a lot easier for that person to find you.