A Lesson From my Younger Years: You Don’t Need to Be Someone Else
During my adolescent years, I imagined myself something like a chameleon, able to adjust and fit into every situation. I had mastered the art of becoming who I thought I needed to be for any environment that I found myself in. At my predominantly white middle school, I always said the right words. I made sure that my English was superb, and I never used slang. I didn’t want to be ‘that kind of black person.’ Around my black friends, I did my best to not ‘sound white’ – whatever that meant. I never really understood that concept but I just know I was tired of hearing everyone tell me that I ‘talked like a white girl.’ Whenever someone used slang terminology that I didn’t understand, I laughed along like I was totally in the know, when in fact, I was clueless.
I desperately wanted to belong. But what I didn’t realize at 13 is that ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging’ are two very different things. I was a pro at fitting in. Seriously, I had that skill mastered. I was a serious perfectionist, and I was hell bent on people pleasing. But despite all of that, I never quite felt like I belonged. I didn’t understand it then, but by attempting to ‘fit in’, I was changing who I was in an effort to convince people to accept me. I never showed up truly as myself because I was too busy trying to be who I thought I was supposed to be so that maybe, just maybe, people would like me.