Kelly, 14, has had her share of girl drama. Her bestie ditched her in 4th grade for a more popular group, and in some ways she has never recovered. Kelly floated between groups over the next several years, but never really trusted anyone enough to let them in close. Her guardedness made sense.
But the most damaging result of her friend’s betrayal was what Kelly made of the experience; the decision that she wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, she was weird and didn’t fit in, and that she was ugly. She became extremely self-conscious about her looks, and especially her face. Her nose was too big, her face too full, and the zits and braces were the icing on the cake. Along with this insecurity came an obsession with comparing herself to everyone, and always unfavorably. No wonder she had become anxious and depressed.
But it was her statement about not fitting in that really hit me: “I’m just a lone fruit loop in a bowl of cheerios!” I have never had a girl describe her feelings in such a metaphorical and deep way.
There is a ton of guilt to go around about why girls feel such intense pressure to “fit in”. We overemphasize values like popularity and belonging and in the process we don’t give much attention to qualities like authenticity, being in integrity with yourself, and being real. And the whole “good girl” conditioning steers girls towards not standing out or making waves.
I’d love for us to encourage girls to make noise, become unpopular, risk rejection, and put themselves out there as they truly are. It’s easier to do that if you have surrounded yourself with supportive friends who accept you as is. And we can start acknowledging girls as powerful leaders when they wear what they want, hang out with who they want, and speak their truth even when it goes against the grain.
Kelly is working on accepting herself and redefining her beliefs about herself and relationships. And she has made a conscious choice to see her fruit loop metaphor in a more positive light: she loves that she can be herself and stand out as different and unique even in the judgmental hallways of school. Who wants to be a plain old cheerio anyways when you were meant to shine?