Not One of the Cool Kids
Growing up, I got made fun of a lot. I was not one of the cool kids. I never cared much for sports (other than the ones I was playing), I never had the latest or coolest clothes, and I never seemed to fit in with the “in” crowd.
While in elementary school, I liked science fiction, robots, superheroes, and cartoons. When I got tired of playing Wall-Ball, I’d go find a couple of the other nerds who were playing with their toy mechs over in the dirt.
In sixth grade, I tried out a private Christian school, but that was awful. Not only was I the new kid, but I was the new kid who wasn’t like everyone else. That year and the first half of 7th grade were terrible times.
When I turned sixteen, I didn’t get a new car like many of my classmates did. I’d sit in my 10-year-old Honda and wish I was sitting in the new Mustang, Camero or Firebird like some of the other kids. Or worse, I’d be sitting in the van I had to drive for a while.
All of my life I struggled to fit in, never quite finding the right mix of interests, personality traits, finances or possessions. My Sam’s Club knock-offs, even if I was the only one who noticed, kept me from being cool.
I know, to some people, a lot of people, I was rich. And, maybe I was one of the “cool kids” to them. And, I also feel a little sad and somewhat ungrateful for the mostly wonderful childhood my parents provided. We got to go on ski trips, we never went hungry, and I got to do some amazing things, so I shouldn’t complain.
But the reason I bring all this up is to say that waiting for the approval of others has kept me from being me. Truly me.
There have always been things I didn’t say or wear because I didn’t want to be made fun of.
There have always been things I did or didn’t do because I didn’t want to get ridiculed or left out.
There have always been things I wanted to try, but didn’t, because I was afraid I’d get teased and I’d lose friends.
Have you ever felt the same way?
Have you ever thought about trying something new, but stopped short because you were afraid your friends would make fun of you if you failed?
Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something because YOU’D make fun of you?
See, what I’ve come to realize is that people make fun of people, ridicule and harass them, and tease them, not matter what. People who stand out are guaranteed to be misunderstood and to get picked on.
You can be smart, but you better not be the smartest.
(Cuz then you’d be a nerd, a suckup, a loser or brown-noser, the teacher’s pet)
You can be pretty, but you better not be the prettiest.
(Cuz then you’d be trying too hard, or you’d be stupid, or a flirt or fake)
You can be good at sports, but you better not be the best.
(Cuz then you’d have no social life, or dumb, or a jock)
You can make a lot of money, but you can’t be the richest.
(Cuz then you’d be a show-off, or conceited, or a con-artist)
We get so caught up in thinking about what others will think of us that we forget to think for ourselves.
We get so caught up in thinking about what other will think of us that we forget to think for ourselves. You’re going to get picked on, ridiculed, harassed and teased no matter what.
If you’re too good, you’ll get picked on for being too good. If you’re not good enough, you’ll get picked on for not being good enough. If you’re right in the middle, you’ll get picked on for not being enough in the middle (or too in the middle, or not in the correct middle).
Am I the only one who has felt this way?
If you’re going to get teased, harassed or made fun of no matter what, why not do something you really want to do in the first place?
If you’re going to lose or make friends regardless of what you do or how it turns out, why not do something that excites and interests you?
For the first twenty-five years of my life, I worried about what other people would think about me.
I hid the fact that I liked both Star Trek AND Star Wars. I didn’t talk about the fact that I was pretty good at both video games AND sports (but not good enough to be a pro at either). I didn’t wear the coolest clothes, drive the coolest cars, have the latest or most expensive gadgets.
I don’t try things that I know I might fail.
I don’t take risks where I might fall on my face.
I don’t do things that might embarrass me.
But you know what. We regret the things we never did way more than the things we did do that didn’t work out.
No great story starts with, “I was gonna… but I didn’t.” Every great adventure has an element of suspense and risk, and a chance things won’t work out.
I regret not believing in myself back at the end of 2013 when I was still at Dell but had the opportunity to leave and work on my business full time, but didn’t take it.
I regret not being more intentional with my business when I first got started as a hobby in 2012. I didn’t go all in because I thought people would make fun of my goal to write and blog and become a coach. And some of them did.
The things that work out are the things we wish we’d started sooner. But we’ll never know what’ll work out if we wait for permission to move forward or we let our fear of failure, embarrassment or ridicule stop us in our tracks.
Growing up I was not one of the cool kids. I didn’t always fit in, and I wasn’t always liked.
I did, however, have an amazing childhood, and I now have a wonderful life. And neither is contingent upon what other people think of me.
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Originally published at www.ellorywells.com on January 30, 2017.