I had a thought while watching New Girl on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, New Girl is about an awkward, quirky, but lovable Millennial named Jess, played by Zooey Deschanel, who moves into an apartment with three guy roommates.
I find it hilarious and enjoy how light and easy it is to watch, I never feel depressed or sad at the end of an episode. Each character is very much their own person, with their own unique interests, triggers, and boundaries yet they’re like a family. I can’t help but laugh along, even though much of it is cheesy and ridiculous.
Anyway, I was trying to pinpoint why I like the characters so much when I realized, every person on the show is unapologetically themselves. Then I noticed the same is true for most popular shows, movies, and books. Really, if you think about it, just about every popular story has at least one beloved character who’s loved because they just are who they are.
What About Real Life?
It hit me how rare it is to find off the screen or page. I don’t need to tell you how often people are bullied, harassed, and trolled when they try to be true to themselves.
Entire groups of humans live double lives, one in public and another in private, all because they’re afraid of how their family, coworkers, and the general public will react if they don’t play the roles expected of them. In some cases, it’s a life-and-death situation.
Even when our lives aren’t at risk, we squeeze ourselves into boxes of expected roles. Parent, friend, partner, worker, you rotate through these characters day, after day, after day. We dawn masks and play our parts in life, as if each role we play is scripted, instead of improv. I’m curious, which parts of yourself are consistent throughout the characters you play?
However, in our favorite stories, we identify with and celebrate a well-rounded character. Not only do they own their flaws, mistakes, and strengths, but they speak their minds and are honest. They set and maintain their own boundaries, they’re vulnerable when the situation calls for it, and they apologize when they mess up. I wouldn’t be surprised if readers sometimes feel like fictional characters are more human than a literal stranger walking down the street.
What if we let our true selves shine a little more?
My Personal Experience
It was a cloudless sunny day, and I was sitting in stopped traffic. Boxed in on all sides, smack in the middle of a three-lane freeway. All around me drivers looked annoyed and bored. The car ahead of me had two children sitting on seats facing backward, so they were looking straight at me.
Seeing no option, other than to wait it out, I let go of my annoyance and did the only thing I could do. I sat back to enjoy the music playing through my speakers. Then, one of my favorite songs came on, Geek in the Pink by Jason Mraz, (which the lyrics coincidently actually, kinda, perfectly, fits with this week’s theme).
You should know, when listening to this song, I can’t help but totally jam out. It’s a song you mindlessly bop your head along to, and if you know the words it’s glorious fun to try and complete them without messing up.
This is why, sitting bumper to bumper with people I’d probably never see again, I turned up the song and let loose. I pretended to be in a music video. There were arm movements, impeccable seated dance moves, an imaginary microphone, and in the car ahead of me were the two children, turned front row fans cheering me on and dancing along.
Within moments, the adults in the front seats noticed the kids laughing and dancing, then saw me in their rear view mirrors. Once they made the connection, the driver rolled down his window did a fist pump while turning up their music too. Then the passenger started dancing too!
By the end of the song, every car around me had people dancing and singing inside their respective vehicles. We waved and laughed at each other. All of us, stuck, motionless, but now bonded by our impromptu traffic dance party.
I could have been scared people would stare and judge my solo jam-sesh. But I didn’t, I decided to do what I wanted to do regardless of the criticism of strangers. And miraculously, the opposite happened. Everyone wanted to participate.
Seriously, that’s a true story and It — Was — Awesome.
What if we stopped judging each other based on superficial traits or interests? And instead, values became the most important characteristic a person was judged by? Like the characters in our stories. You know who they are at their core, but their quirks, interests, and habits are what make them unique.
Imagine if we all had the confidence to be who we are regardless of other people’s opinions? (Without causing harm to ourselves or others of course.)
The funny thing is, the parts we hide because we don’t want to be embarrassed are usually the things people end up loving the most. It might even be something everyone can relate to.
All of us have an inner child who wants to come out and play. Everyone becomes curious, has an imagination, and longs to be understood. But how can we possibly be understood or find a connection if we deny or hide entire chunks of who we are?
Who would you be if you let your weirdness show a little?
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