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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I AM THAT GIRL: What Good is Popular?

So I know that you all are anxiously awaiting my update on our THREE-PEAT… (okay, maybe not…) but I'm saving that for another day.  I've got something more pressing on my heart.

It's no secret that I've struggled with self affirmation during my life.  As a student, you learn that your grades reflect your performance.  As a child, you learn that your parents will be quick to acknowledge your behavior.  As a gymnast, your coaches and judges will not hesitate to correct your imperfections.  And unfortunately, as a teenager, your peers will inevitably do the same thing…

It's no wonder, as women we are constantly searching for affirmation from an outside source.  We've been raised that way, conditioned that way, and brought up to believe that other people's opinions matter.  No matter the intent… your mom could have been the most supportive and encouraging and affirming person (like mine was), you will still seek out the reassurance.  We yearn for it, and we try to reciprocate.

I've definitely looked for this kind of reassurance my entire life.  I was the gymnast that needed the coach to watch.
First turn: "Tell me what I need to fix."
Second turn: "Is this better?"
Third turn: "That one felt better… did I fix it?"
and so on…
(to my coaches… I apologize)

I was the music student who stood 6 inches away from the microphone because, GOD FORBID someone actually hear what my voice really sounded like.  That actually happened… at a recital no less.

I was the friend who had to ask advice on EVERYTHING!! God bless my friends and their patience and endless advice on everything from, "Should I text him or wait?" or "Is this shirt okay?" or "Do you think she's mad at me?" You would have thought I was completely paranoid… about absolutely nothing.

I never trusted my own judgement when it came to trivial topics, particularly things about myself.  Looking to others for approval became my norm.  It was completely heart stopping when my mother finally answered me one day, "I don't care what you do with your hair, Allison!!" Her exasperation was evident and I almost couldn't attend my hair appointment because, well,  if my Mother wasn't going to give me her opinion I was frozen as to what to do.  (Note: I am completely grateful for that ridiculous outburst)

My sweet friend Angel and I.  I always wanted to be more
like her, yet she always encouraged me to be ME, and
no one else.  Such a blessing she is!
I remember thinking in my later college years (still healing from my illness), that I wish I was more like my roommate.  She was so proud of who she was.  She embraced everything about herself.  She loved her body, embraced her flaws, didn't overanalyze when things didn't go well, shook it off when she disappointed someone, and loved her friends and family so completely… it was like happiness was just radiating right out of her.

I know that she probably didn't feel that way all the time and I'm sure she didn't notice those things about herself to the extent that I did, but I just LONGED to be more like her.

Most of you know I've been reading this AWESOME book, "I Am That Girl," and I keep finding precious gifts in its' pages.  The most recent chapter I read, entitled, "Be Unpopular," is everything I wish I'd learned at 10 years old.  Seeing as I recently came to these conclusions on my own, the chapter has only reaffirmed (shit, I wasn't even looking for affirmation!) what I've been self-affirming over the past few months.

Please check this book out!  It's the perfect read for any girl
14 or 84… I think we can all learn something from
Alexis Jones about being "That Girl."
In short, author Alexis Jones, tackles the topic of authenticity, and how wanting to fit in is natural, but it can come at a cost if you spend too much time trying to be what you think people want you to be and less time becoming who you are.  Okay ladies, I'll bet you a MILLION dollars, that if you sat down at a table and someone ask you to describe your best friend or your favorite gal pal, you could gush for hours and hours about how wonderfully unique and inspiring and amazing she is.  Right?  So, what would happen if she was in that situation and had to talk about you?  Do you think she'd sigh, take a deep breath and then very monotonously recant on how average you are?  How you are a decent friend but nothing to write home about.  How you spend, too much time together and she'd rather you be more like her than you because you're just not as awesome as she is?

HELL FREAKING NO SHE WOULDN'T!!

Like you, your best friend would probably go out of her mind singing your praises about your beauties and your strengths and perhaps complimenting your faults-- because that is EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD SAY ABOUT HER!  Why would you assume that she, or anyone else wants you to be some other version of yourself?  You wouldn't tell your friends that you'd rather they change for whatever reason, right?!  Otherwise, they probably wouldn't be your friends.  (yep… I went there).

Someone recently asked me for some advice, and I was finally able to put everything I have learned over the last 15 years of adolescence and young adulthood to good use:

As long as you always remember to be good to yourself and always consider yourself to be smart and capable and important, other people will too.  That was definitely one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.  I always looked for verification or reassurance from others.  I still do from time to time, but I've learned along the way that if I don't respect and value myself first, why should anyone else?  If you worry about pleasing everyone else first, you will limit yourself.  Set goals for who you want to be as a person (no matter where you are in life), and go after them!  Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't capable, or that your dreams aren't worth it.  That is for YOU to decide.

You all are incredibly intelligent and hardworking and dedicated.  It doesn't matter what you choose to do in life.  You will succeed if you always remember how awesome you are.  You're strong… believe it, embrace yourself and be THAT GIRL.  What good is popular anyway?  Quit trying to please everyone, and take a little time to make YOU happy!

Love True,
Allison