Friday, June 6, 2014

It's a Brave Thing to Be Awesome

In 1988, when it came time to choose my Halloween costume, I remember BEGGING my mother to let me be Flo-Jo.  My family and I had watched the Olympics on our TV sets (one for picture, one for sound) and I was amazed by the fastest woman in the world.  I wanted more than anything to be one of the people that I so admired. My costume was pretty low-key as far as costumes go.  (I think the previous year I had gone as a butterfly).  I would wear a leotard with a number tag pinned on and then dancing tights with one of the legs cut off.

When I got to school, though, everyone asked what I was.  I was shy - painfully shy- and to suddenly get all this attention for something that I thought needed no introduction, I panicked.  I took off the Flo-Jo characteristic tights.  Garbed in simply a leotard, I let my classmates believe that I was a gymnast or a swimmer even a dancer- it didn't matter which.  The vagueness of it allowed me to escape anyone's notice.  

When I got home, my mom asked me how the costume party went and I admitted I hadn't been Flo-Jo at all.  I think she was a little disappointed.  

While walking to work this week, the memory of this Halloween came to me.  It surprised me how recent it felt - the shame and embarrassment of not being Flo-Jo in public, of talking with my peers.  You know what?  I'm disappointed too.  Sad even.  Because Flo-Jo was awesome!  And a little seven year old girl being her for Halloween?  Even more awesome!  

So, why was I afraid of being awesome?  Why was I afraid of being myself?  

It's simple: I'm afraid of rejection.  If you have an opinion, a thought, a personality, at some point someone is going to disagree with you (or worse).  It's just the way it works.  But for someone who is ultimately afraid of being rejected in any form, this means remaining as neutral as possible and even then, still hurting from the people who dislike people who have no opinions, thoughts or personality.  

I'm doing myself no favors this way, though.  Honestly, I'm not doing the world any favors either.  My elementary school missed the opportunity to have a Flo-Jo in the Halloween parade.  Hopefully, the world could use an original, thinking, acting, motivated Erin today.  

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