Recently I had a very interesting conversation with my 5-year-old grandson, K.J., who said something that started a process of thinking for me, as well as enlightening me on loosening up and not stressing over small stuff. Sure, I know small stuff leads to big stuff and big stuff leads to bigger stuff. But on each level, there’s an element of letting life handle itself, of not trying to fit life in a mold that conforms to everything and everybody else’s way of doing or being.
We were walking out the door, headed on an outing, when I noticed that the kid had on two differently colored socks. Not only were they two different colors, they were two different sizes! Annoyed and startled, I said, “Your socks don’t match!” His answer, which seemed to come from a place of confidence and assurance, was “your socks don’t have to match.”
I proceeded to tell him they do have to match, and he asked “why?” My foolish answer was something like “because people will laugh at you. “ His response was, “no, they won’t.” It was obvious the kid was totally oblivious to others laughing or talking about his odd way of dressing. He didn’t change his socks; I didn’t force him to, so we both left the house happy and content. Mainly because I realized he was not going to come around to my way of thinking, and my thought was, did I really want to be the person to crush his spirit?
There are times when, as adults, we should revisit that childlike attitude of “who cares? What does it matter? It’s right because I think it’s right. Something in my innermost being says so.” It was at that moment that I began thinking, could conforming be a part of our stress as adults? How many times has someone laughed at or rejected you because you didn’t conform to their way of thinking, looking, or doing. While there is something to be said for valuing the opinions of others, it should never be to the point of not embracing or stifling who you are.
It takes a conscious effort to stand up for yourself and not feel guilty or intimidated. At some point, you have to stop caring what people think. While he never said it (smart kid that he is), his actions said, “Back off, I know what I’m doing here, I’m OK with this and it doesn’t bother me if you don’t like it.” My opinion changed because I respected and valued his right to be independent.
Many times we have a knee-jerk reaction when challenged on what others perceive to be our “odd” behavior. Don’t overreact to those who make comments about you. It gets easier over time and with practice. Some people will begin to accept you for who you are, and others won’t. Your confidence and assurance in who you are could be the example someone else may need to accept who they are. Your actions and attitude give them permission to be.
While I’m not advocating showing up at an important event, work, or school in unmatched socks, I am an advocate for releasing ourselves from unnecessary restrictions which limit or constrict us from expressing who we really are.