“Why do you try so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out?”
This is the question that resonates from the 2003 Amanda Bynes movie, What a Girl Wants.
Have you ever seen that person across the room at a party, in class, or at a dinner party that didn’t seem to fit in but seemed to have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that drew people to them? Like a transcendent magnet, people are drawn to that person, wanting to find out more. It could be beauty, smarts, or talent… but it is something that rouses possible jealousy on the part of others. The mantra is that you need to fit into the uniform and not stick out, and if you do, you will possibly get hammered down for it.
As a woman it is difficult to maneuver all the stereotypes placed on you. When you have ambitions beyond simply cooking and taking care of your kids, many people think of that as being selfish. As a woman and a mom with daughters, I want my girls to know and understand that they can do anything and that they each have a voice. This also goes for the little young men I’m raising, to help them see that each of us have a voice and while some voices are different, we can use them to achieve our goals.
All my life, my family just wanted me to fit in. I was like that nail in a board that just kept popping out, no matter how hard I tried to stay in the wood or how hard someone kept trying to hammer me back. I just kept popping out like a cowlick.
Recently my father asked me, “Why can’t you just have a normal life?” I answered, “I tried dad, but every time I do, I just screw it up.” I continued to tell him to think of my childhood and how hard I tried to fit in even then. It never seemed to work because destiny—along with my loud voice and opinions—always placed me on the front lines. Whenever I see something I believe in, I have never been able to step aside or keep quiet.
My father said that he, too, suffered in his own life by trying to be “normal”. Then my 75-year old male chauvinist father apologized to me, admitting he tried so hard to push me into a box because he didn’t want me to get hurt by being different.
Believe me, I love being a mother and a wife. But I also wonder what would have happened to my life had I not listened to so many well-intentioned people and allowed that nail to pop out! Perhaps that nail could have gone on to nail in bigger houses! I’ve observed in my life that there is more emphasis focused on trying to fit in instead of trying to find out who you really are.
I recently saw a beautiful young woman named Joanna in the middle of her soccer team getting ready to play a game. She just stuck out and when we finally spoke, it was like I was that moth, and I was drawn to her witty candor and to her charming charisma as well as her beauty and her athleticism. I watched Joanna play soccer and honestly my jaw dropped at her intelligent playing ability and agility and ballet like litheness. Later on, I found out she was a pro athlete and not just gorgeous but discerningly smart as a whip and also very funny. The openness and charisma that oozed out of her was impossible to avoid. It was absolutely incredible to find an openhearted person who loved life and who tries to live it at the fullest with no regrets.
Unfortunately it’s difficult being a female in a male and false-feminist dominated world and being true to who we are. I feel that the majority of people, male and female, are naturally resistant to being an outsider—to standing out, the way Joanna does. It’s natural to try to hammer those outsiders back in. With gang mentality, anytime people see someone as different they feel the need to try to make them conform to what they are.
I was that person. I grew up different. I was a Korean-Japanese kid, born out of wedlock, growing up with divorced parents–the rich kid, the poor kid, the tomboy, the only yellow on the block. So I’ve always tried to fit in, and yet my heart, my soul was singing to me and every mistake I made was in trying to conform.
It was like a breath of fresh air to meet Joanna. Her joie de vivre to touch meaningfully everyone who she meets in her life was felt wholeheartedly by me and I want my daughters to follow in her path, unafraid to be “different”. What a girl wants, what every person should want, is to be themselves, to stick out like nails, to be the light at the end.
God gave us all talents and really it’s true, we should use them, boys and girl, male and female. Just like the song, we should all “Shine bright like a diamond.”