My grandmother took me aside at the age of fifteen and delivered this message: “Donna, don’t try to be anybody else. You are you. You are Donna. And there will never be another like you.”
After reaching my fifties, I finally get it. Grandmom saw my tendency to conduct Gallup polls to determine my new hairstyle. She saw me panic when I thought I had displeased my parents by choosing the “wrong” boyfriend. And she observed me as I studied and mirrored someone else’s life without living my own.
Looking up to people is fine, but emulating is a different story . . .
The dangers of modeling our behavior based upon other people can be obvious. If your son has a poster of Charlie Manson on the wall and spends an inordinate amount of time reading “Helter Skelter,” then you have a problem. But most of us whittle our uniqueness down one “I want to be like that person” at a time.
We slowly shapeshift and become sad copies of someone else.
Don’t choose the wrong threads . . .
I know this sounds as if I have been smoking something, but life really is this incredible tapestry, and each of us contributes a different color to that living tapestry.
So, what happens? How does our thread end up looking like so many others?
I remember dressing myself for elementary school one morning. I put on a pink party dress with one red sock and one white sock. I was happy. I thought I looked cool.
A neighbor saw me walk by her house and quickly called my mother. A more conventional outfit was delivered to the school in record time. While this probably spared me from getting slapped around on the playground, I felt sad. I really didn’t care about clothes, but on that day I chose what made me happy. I liked bright colors, and I wanted to be unique. I think my red and white socks were an homage to Pippi Longstocking.
There are no wrong threads . . .
While I’m not encouraging you to wear inappropriate clothes to work, I am asking that you buy what speaks to you. Love that lime green blouse? Buy it. Want to dress in all black? Go for it.
You are a unique thread in life’s tapestry that can never be replaced. If you are busy dying yourself the color of other lives, you lose your unique contribution. And eventually you will discover that those people you imitated were just as happy and scared and cocky and insecure as you were.
Today, be the thread you are meant to be. Otherwise, life will have one bland tapestry.
Now, I’m off to buy a pink party dress with red and white socks.