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This guy once told me I wasn’t very memorable.

I didn’t ask him to explain, because I just wanted to change the subject. But that comment remained with me for the next 20 years.

Although I was offended, I think I now understand what he meant.

We had attended elementary school together and 10 years after graduating, all he remembered about me was that I was quiet. I followed the rules. I was a
“good” girl.

Ironically, while at home, I was and still am the loudest and most vocal member of my family. I admit, it’s actually who I really am. And even the stars and the elements betray my well-hidden secret –  Feng Shui teachers say I am “fire;” zodiac astrologers say I am a “Leo;” and Chinese astrologers say I am a “Tiger.”

So, what happened?

Where did the “meek little lamb” my grade six teacher taught, come from?

Stylin’ and profilin’

At a recent family wedding, my seven-year-old son put on quite a show. Seemingly oblivious to all the other guests, he danced around like Mr. Bean. I was in awe. He was having so much fun; free from any insecurities.

Meanwhile, my mom was showing off her glitter pants, à la Liza Minelli, which were beyond sensational.

So, it was interesting to hear other people reacting:

For my son, people thought, “He’s enjoying himself. Let him express himself.”

And for my mom, it was like, “What was she thinking?”

Two types of people

After much reflection, I’ve concluded that my own personality changes (public vs. private) reflect fear. Many of us are driven by or inhibited by fear…about what others will think; of looking foolish; of failing…

So basically, I think there are two types of people:

  1. Those that were born with the freedom of self-expression and continue to do so throughout their lives
  2. Those that were born with the freedom of self-expression, but have learned to repress their true selves. It’s now latent, so they need to relearn how to express themselves…or simply consume alcohol

…there was that one time I went to Las Vegas and, according to my cousin, did an awesome Snoop Dogg impression through the casino…

Just “like” me

For the most part, we allow kids to act silly. But more than that, we applaud them for expressing themselves. We want them to be creative. We want them to be courageous and bold.

Adults, on the other hand, are criticized or become the subject of gossip if any form of individuality is on display. Is it a midlife crisis? He must be drunk. After all, we must show our maturity as we age. Still, I wonder if we are, in fact, exhibiting genuine maturity when we repress our personality, simply to fit in?

But who really cares? All we want is to be “liked.” So, we walk around inhibited. Afraid to express our inner child. Our inner creativity. Our inner fashionista. At my age, though, it’s no longer about me. It’s about supporting my children; encouraging them to honour self-expression during and past their adolescent years.

A lion in sheep’s clothing?

Although I’d like to be able to pass down some of the invaluable lessons I learned about peer pressure and self-expression from the experiences I gained while a teenager, I really can’t say I have any experiences to draw on.

I wasn’t a very expressive teen. And even I admit, my high school years weren’t very memorable. It wasn’t an exciting time. I went to an all-girl high school, where we were taught by Catholic nuns; where a visit to the bus stop to see the guys from our brother school was a highlight; and where the length of your kilt spoke volumes. However, I got through it…thankful that social media didn’t exist then.

So, without any personal anecdotes or genuine wisdom to impart to my kids, I’ll have to simply model self-expression at its best. After all, I’m in my 40’s now…“mid-life” and no desire to impress anyone, except myself.

To that guy who said I wasn’t memorable, watch me…drop it like it’s hot.