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A Lesson I Learned From My Mom: Be Yourself

My mom says lots of things.

Let me clarify. 

My mom has a big mouth. 

Okay, wait, that’s not what I’m going for either. 

My mom tells me when she’s proud of me, and she teaches me when I mess up. She tells me she loves me, and she talks about how she’ll miss me when I head off to college. Sometimes she’ll tell me what’s on her mind, and sometimes I do the same.

She is also brutally, tragically honest. 

Especially when I don’t want her to be, but I need her to be. 

One time, after a particularly hard break up, she told me that she hoped I could get back to my old self. Naturally, being the moody teenager that I am, I took offense. But she continued, and said, “Sometimes when you want to be liked so badly, you take on the persona of the people around you.” 

Okay. Ouch, mom. (But you’re not wrong.) 

I am, undoubtedly, very good at taking on the personas of the people around me. It should be noted: that is an incredibly difficult thing to admit. 

But it isn’t fueled by envy as you might think. 

It’s more so, the desire to be liked. The desperate need to have affection directed toward me by others and thinking that the only way I can achieve that is by being just like them. 

Now, therein lie two major problems. First, I shouldn’t need affection from others to feel fulfilled. Second, when I’m damn near stealing someone else’s identity, I lose sight of my own. 

And if we’re being honest, I’m pretty fricken cool, so I’m questioning why I so badly want to be like other people. (My mom thinks I’m cool too, hehe.)

But, while trying so hard to be liked, I created a perfectly impossible version of a human that I expected myself to live up to. 

And in doing that, I gave up a lot of myself. 

I think sometimes we give up pieces of ourselves to fit in better, to be well known, to get more likes on social media. And we replace those forgotten pieces with ones we like better: maybe we try to be more like the popular girl, or that one Instagram model who has a cool feed. Maybe we try to wear bolder clothing to stand out, or maybe we try to wear less bold clothing to go unnoticed. 

Whatever it is we do, I truly believe that it is often influenced by the people and the world around us. We have an innate desire to be liked. 

Our longing for human acceptance and connection oftentimes forces us into a disconnect from ourselves and our inner workings. 

It’s just that we try so hard to be other people that we often lose sight of ourselves. 

And, in doing so, we can downplay what we want and search for in our lives — from our relationships to our jobs we can internalize our actual desires in order to best fit the ones of those around us. Why do we do this? 

Well, to fit in. To avoid confrontation. To take the path of least resistance. 

In the Psychology Today article, We All Want to Fit In, our ability to recognize our differences from others starts at a very young age. More specifically, on the playground. We begin to pick out our contrasting characteristics and consciously mold ourselves to fit the dominant group. We do this to be accepted. 

But this continues well into adulthood. According to the article, we alter how we talk and what we talk about depending on the person we’re conversing with. Which, in some cases, isn’t inherently bad. You wouldn’t talk to your boss the same way you speak to your brother, would you? However, on the flip side, changing how we interact from peer to peer creates false identities of our own. With so many different versions of ourselves, how do we keep up? 

Do I even know who I am? Do you even know who you are? And… wait. How does my mom know who I am?

And the media doesn’t help. From headlines to tweets to videos, our social platforms and outlets are constantly telling us what to do — how we should dress, what we should eat, and even tactics to be “more likable.” We allow society to enforce standards and expectations that shouldn’t necessarily be normalized, whether because of their mundane standards or simply the fact that we should be allowed to be whatever we want to.

And, in allowing this, we let ourselves believe that everything we are is unworthy. We force ourselves to think that blending in is the best option. We trick our brains into the notion that everyone around us is way cooler than we are, and so we adopt their habits and behaviors.

This is dangerous for a multitude of reasons. For one, when we all try to be the same, humanity loses its originality and authenticity.

Original and authentic ideas have brought us to where we are today. Whether in art, technological advancements, or walking on the moon, all those actions — and everything in between — are the outcome of diverse humans with unique perspectives.

Our differences can keep some grounded while lifting others up. Our differences can make realists dream for just a while and the dreamers take it down a couple of notches. Point is, we need each other, and all our differences, to thrive.

If everyone pretends to come from the same perspective, we’ll remain complacent. We’ll never hear new ideas and our mothers, much like mine, will miss our little quirks which make us, us. (And they aren’t afraid to call us out about it, either.)

Luckily, my mom doesn’t let things go. Ever. She supported me during a tough break up, even when we were butting heads, because she knew I needed it. She knew that she makes up a part of me, and I make up a part of her — and for a short time, we lost that.

So keep your loved ones close. Allow them to support you when you’re not feeling like yourself. But don’t keep them so close that you start to mimic their every move.

Remember, it’s important to be your own person.

But it’s also easier said than done.

You’ll have to start with accepting that not everyone will like who you truly are. But that’s the point, only the important ones will love and understand you and all of your unique glory. Love and trust yourself first, and the rest will follow. Self-assurance is your best friend.

Lean into your characteristics, hobbies, and all of the things that really make you happy. Don’t agree to take a yoga class with the women on your street if you dislike yoga.

Which brings us to the next point: be honest. Much like my mom was with me, being truthful (while sometimes abrasive) is the best way to be communicative and insightful. Speak up if you do or don’t like something. Honesty is better than suffering in silence.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m back to my normal self, at least as normal as I can get. The people around me are really cool, but it turns out — I am too. Everyone is their own kind of cool, and that’s the best part of it all.

My mom taught me (as cliche as this sounds), that being myself is the most profound thing that I can be. Why? Because I’m the only one that can do it.

Until the next time my mom gets brutally honest with me, I think I’ll stick to being the Madisyn she knows and loves.

Madisyn Gentry

Madisyn Gentry was born and raised in Greeley, CO. Growing up in colorful Colorado has been the perfect place for her to explore, spend time reading under big trees, and enjoy the outdoor sun. She is currently a senior in high school, set to graduate in May 2020. Gentry is a very outspoken individual. She leads her life in kindness and uses her voice, both out loud and in writing. She is a climate activist, she advocates for equal rights for all, and works relentlessly to empower the ones around her. She will be attending the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO in fall 2020 to study journalism. She currently writes for her local newspaper, The Greeley Tribune. Informing her community and beyond is a passion she has been chasing for quite some time now. Gentry has four younger siblings, all of whom she adores more than life itself. Each one of them serves as a reminder to her that family is one of the most important pieces of our journey here on earth. Through her writing, Gentry hopes to touch the lives of her community, and someday, the world.

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