Free to Be… You and Me…: Three Rules for Personal Comfort

31 Mar

Part One of Four

As I began writing this piece a while back, the Oscars were on….two of the acceptance speeches grabbed my attention as perfect fits for helping kids – and ourselves – to get and stay comfortable in their/our own skins.

The first was JK Simmons (Go Detroit!), the Best Supporting Actor from Whiplash who was imploring everyone in the world to call their mom or dad – no texting, no emailing – picking up the phone and calling. He reminded us how lucky some of us are to even have parents still on the planet. I immediately ran to Ben to tell him about it. He looked up from whatever game he was watching, rolled his eyes a bit and exasperatingly said “Why do I need to call you? I’m right here.” Hmm…maybe he missed the point? My turn to eye-roll (just a bit) and explain that the message was that it’s okay to call your parents because you are never too busy, cool or successful to do so…. My boy just shook his head and smiled faintly, letting me know that even though he was acting like it didn’t matter, he got the message. I hope he’s always comfortable enough with himself to express the love he has for his parents – no matter who’s looking or listening.

Later came a compelling speech from Graham Moore, a young screenwriter who won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Games. He shared that at age 16 he attempted suicide because he didn’t ‘fit in’. He perceived himself as – and was considered – weird and different. His message was for kids to stay weird and different. He then asked them to one day, when they were up on stage accepting their award, please reiterate the point. Powerful words…. I wanted to talk to Ben about it, but by the time the show ended every other person, dog, cat and fish in my house was sound asleep.

Finally, Sam Smith, who was awarded numerous Grammys this year, described that early in his musical career, he tried everything he could think of to match whatever mold he envisioned a successful artist would be. BUT when he finally stopped trying to impress, be and look like others and instead embraced his own uniqueness, the hits (and the Grammys) just kept on coming.

(If you haven’t read some of my previous blogs about kids fitting in and coming into their own, here’s one that will hit home: The Quest for High School Cool)

I don’t know about you, but as a parent – and especially now as the parent of a teen – getting to know, accept and be true to yourself is the most important concept I hope to instill and pass onto Ben. I want him to have confidence, self-respect and comfort in his (hopefully carefully thought-out) decisions.

It’s also the hardest thing to do – I’m not sure I’ve had a great deal of success in that arena yet. Like most teens, he still seems somewhat concerned about what others think (though he would never admit it) and what others might be doing. Case in point; he mostly only wears the khaki’s and joggers that are considered the acceptable boys clothing of the day – every single day. And just in case you didn’t know, you NEVER, ever wear grey on the top and grey on the bottom at the same time (in Ben’s high school, this is called a groutfit – isn’t that a riot?).

Truthfully, those joggers are kind of weird looking. What happened to regular jeans? I also think all those girls in leggings with very short tops that barely come to their waists are pretty inappropriate for more than half the body types of the girls who wear them… But they still do…. Does anyone else wonder why? I think it’s called peer pressure – as in NOT coming comfortably into your own.

This stuff always makes me think of those ‘Best Of’ issues in local magazines. When I read the results, I am 100% sure that more than half the people who respond have NEVER even been to that #1 swanky restaurant, urban deli, five star hotel or the absolute most incredible facialist whose box they have checked. I can’t understand what is wrong with just not filling in the boxes of the people or places one hasn’t yet experienced.

But, even when no one else is looking, people aren’t comfortable enough with themselves to acknowledge that they could be out of the loop, skipped over or not completely in the know.

So, we give up our own judgment in favor of a Hollywood star telling us how to feed and vaccinate (or not) our kids, make-up our faces or dress. Most of us realize that an A-Lister’s fragrances are not really concocted by (or, often, even USED by) them and that they get paid to endorse ‘their’ products which are manufactured by others. And although I have no problem with anyone taking the advice of a real doctor or designer, I wonder why we so desperately want to take the opinion of a non-expert simply because they are famous.

And imagine if it is so difficult for us, as adults, to stop being led around by our noses by others, how very hard it is for our impressionable kids to not be pulled in by what is deemed as hip or must-have!

So stay tuned for the follow-up pieces where I share my Three Absolutes for finding and keeping one’s personal comfort, confidence and self-contentment. There is so much to say on this topic.

But for now, I leave you with this perfect quote I recently happened upon:

“Be careful when you blindly follow the masses.

Sometimes the ‘M’ is missing!”

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