Remember that tween phase of your life when smiling for a picture put more strain on your face than any plastic surgeon could? It was exhausting. First, you had to look around to make sure that there was not a soul to judge you. Then you had to force your face to make the most unnatural shape it could as you frantically check if someone will see you with your giggling parents.
Maybe that was just me, but what about that awkward hair phase? I remember getting a haircut and just praying it will stay that way for at least the month. Fearing the day your hair grows out of the haircut you paid for, and slowly, week by week, moves into a different one.
Yeah, I hated that. Normally in those times of desperation, I would wear a hat, but looking back, that too was no escape. I spent my teen years wearing an explorer hat. I am not talking about a cowboy hat, but instead a full-blown Indiana Jones hat. To this day I will defend that hat with my life, but I can’t deny it is a bit weird.
Yet who hasn’t bought something out of guilty pleasure? Come on, your telling me you never considered buying a Robo hat or a purple tiara? What about a zippo so that you can be as cool as James Bond or Cowboy Bebop? And there’s no shame in admitting you lowkey have wanted to be the next bachelorette for the last few years.
I should probably get to the point of all this. I have one point, and it’s rather simple: it’s okay. All these things we do, buy, and enjoy are okay. It is okay because we all have that something that we were or are ashamed of. And the only reason we think it is a “bad” thing is because nobody wants to admit they thought about it as well.
Society is made up of a lot of pressures to fit the “norm”. This largely creates the one size fits all mindset, and personally I hate that. I hate how many of us, myself included, sometimes say and do things simply because they fit the norm. I mean how many people do the same dance move every time they get on the dance floor? I’ve noticed through my personal experience that people like to stick to the same four or five “cool” dance moves and then shuffle through those all night.
Being a twenty-year-old college student, I have witnessed three phases at this point. The first is when we are too young to pick up on these social cues and requirements on how to be. This is a time when kids just are kids. It is not until later in their life that they begin to notice when they are playing with the “wrong” or “right” toys. Or when they are wearing the “wrong” or “right” clothes.
The second phase generally happens through middle school. It is the moment we slowly begin to notice these societal expectations and desperately begin to fit them. We rush to find who and what we are supposed to be. How to act, who to like, what to wear and all that good stuff. This is a desperate attempt to be accepted and fit in.
The last phase is maintenance. Having fit in a group by now, many of us try to maintain that level of acceptance by sticking with the times. This process can feel a bit passive, but I would argue it is work nonetheless. Work, just as before, to fit in and maintain acceptance.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is very generalized. I, of course, see plenty of individuals and groups pull from this norm and present themselves how they would like to be. Especially recently it appears more and more people are feeling comfortable being who they want to be rather than who they should be. But nonetheless, a standard exists.
A standard to be a certain person and to be a certain way. So as I said at the beginning of this post, it’s okay. There is no right or wrong way to act, it is only common or uncommon. No way is superior to the other and we need to accept that. We need to learn to be okay with others, and most of all, be okay with ourselves.
I encourage any readers out there to consider what actually makes you happy and who you actually want to be. You may already be doing that, and that’s great, but sadly not enough of us are. And the reason I know that is because these norms still exist. The day we all learn to love and accept ourselves is the day these norms are extinguished. It will be the day we try to smile for a picture and laugh at how ridiculous our buck teeth look, rather than shamefully try again.