Growing up, I wanted to be just like my big sister Jenna. Jenna has one of the best personalities of anyone I know. She’s fun, kind, energetic, handles the spotlight beautifully and at the same time she’s humble and genuinely curious about others’ lives. Jenna was prom queen and homecoming queen in high school for these very reasons. She hates that I just told you that.
Even in high school I remember she received those crowns with a subtle eye roll. Jenna is awesome because she doesn’t need accolades and crowns to tell her so.
Though I wanted to be:
I was not just like Jenna in high school.
I had friends. I liked my life at school and am fortunate to have walked away from those adolescent years with an overall good experience. But I realized in that time that my personality was not identical to Jenna’s like I wanted it to be.
People would tell me often that I was quiet. This upset me. I was not quiet, I would tell them. They just didn’t know me well enough. I thought being quiet was a negative character trait and I was embarrassed this was the impression I was giving people. I didn’t want to have a reputation of a quiet girl. I wanted Jenna’s reputation. How was I going to be homecoming queen if I didn’t?
It took years of fighting people on this aspect of my personality before surrendering to it. In college, enough people had described me as quiet that I began to admit it to myself.
I was often quiet.
I didn’t speak up much in class. I liked riding in the car in silence, which irritated many of my friends. I liked to read and write and be by myself more than the average college student. I loved people and meeting new ones and going to things, but I was never the life of the party and would not have felt comfortable if I was.
Sometimes people give us labels.
They can be cruel and hurtful and inaccurate, and we need to go to counseling in adulthood to work through it. And other times, people give us labels that are not bad or anywhere near inaccurate yet we resist them because we have a vision of who we think we should be.
If the well-meaning people in your life are consistently describing you in a certain way, don’t dismiss it. Take it into consideration, whether this description is, in your opinion, positive or negative.
When I began accepting my quiet self, I began to experience freedom. If being quiet was true about me, I didn’t have to force myself to be louder than what felt natural. I didn’t have to try to be more fun at parties when I didn’t know how to be. I could start to discover who I truly was, quiet parts and all.
Life was more enjoyable.
I was less anxious and I was easier on myself, rather than being hard on myself for not speaking up more.
I was never homecoming queen or prom queen. I think I won a participation award in my Latin class once, but I never received that reputation I thought I wanted, the one I thought I needed. Now, I know that that’s ok. It’s better to be who you are than to strive to be who you think should be.
And years later, I still look up to Jenna and want to be just like her, but I want to be just like me too.