It’s starting to happen. Approaching seven years old, my daughter’s becoming preoccupied with what others think of her. And what they think is starting to inform her choices. She no longer chooses to wear her cute and kicky hats indoors. No one else wears them, after all. That pre-historic amygdala at the base of her brain is starting to run the show. It tells her, in its lizard-y rasp:

“Keep your head down, kid. Take your hat off. Fit in. Play with those girls even if they’re mean because they’re cool. Put down the salmon and pick up the cheese pizza (I mean, seriously…what’s WRONG with you? All kids like cheese pizza and French fries). Pretend you’re crushing on Justin. All girls your age like him. Above all else, fit in. For the love of God, Child. FIT. IN.”

Excruciatingly painful to watch.

Because all I want, as her Mama, is for her to recognize and love herself as her own person. As she is. For her to not need/want to be “less than”, “more than” or anything “other than” the wonder that she is. Naturally.

And if I’m being honest, I want the world to appreciate her for all that she is…without insisting that she fit in.

I wish the same, of course, for myself.

I have made countless choices in my own life that have been informed by my own lizard brain:  I have used a voice that wasn’t my own; shared opinions that weren’t my own; exhibited styles that weren’t my own; and professed love that wasn’t my own. Every one of these choices has led me down a path of discontent, all in the name of fitting in.

Fitting in with whom, I am not sure. With the cool kids, I guess. Fitting in to what end, I am less sure. So no one will see me for the magnificence that I am? Meh, that doesn’t sound like me. Besides, we’re all cool kids in someone else’s eyes.

Here’s what I’m learning:

I think that fundamentally we don’t want to fit in. I think fundamentally we want to be appreciated for who we are. In fact, I suspect that is our deepest desire.

Try this on for size and see how IT fits:

“I’m different. And I like it.”

No screaming hand-waving LOOK-AT-ME-AND-HOW-CRAZY-OUT-THERE-DIFFERENT-I-AM. Just different. Naturally so.

A final thought. Next time you feel pulled to be other than (less than, more than) glorious YOU, take a moment to pause. Breathe. Then ask yourself these two questions: “What do I REALLY want here?” and “How do I want to show up?”

I bet that quiets ye olde lizard brain. It detests those questions (the ones that bring you out of your head and into your heart).

Then please come back here and tell us in the comments what shifted.

That’s the work. It starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with my kid.

Off we go…wearing our kickiest hats.