Who Do You Think You Are?

Putting on arias.

It’s still a vivid memory. It was second grade and we were lined up outside the auditorium waiting to go inside for either the Christmas or Spring pageant. (I was always relegated to the chorus, not because I could in any way carry a tune but because I had an infallible memory for lyrics, and was often the only one still singing the by the 8th verse of “My Darling Clementine.”) We were nervous, giggling. I remember letting out a chortle which I unsuccessfully tried to stifle, and out of nowhere, from someone I regarded as one of my friends it came: “Susan W—–, [yes, she used my full name] who do you think you ARE?” The tone of derision felt like a punch to the gut. I couldn’t quite figure out what code of conduct I’d violated, in what way I’d stepped over a line of socially approved behavior.

Looking back, it’s obvious that my classmate’s remark was a total non-sequitur, and probably a result of her own stage jitters. But reinforced perhaps by my mother’s disdain for those who she perceived as “snobs” or who “put on airs” that who do you think you ARE? stuck with me and became a mental refrain that told me I didn’t deserve to stand out and should keep to my place. My family’s moral/social sartorial code also frowned on the bright, the tight, the loud and brash. Ladies were humble and modest and quiet and didn’t call attention to themselves. They didn’t let compliments go to their head lest they become full of themselves. Pride was something to be avoided rather than embraced.

Fitting In trumped Standing Out. (“The nail that sticks up is the one that gets hammered down.”) But I did stand out in ways that often garnered criticism. I was a plump child in an era where that was unusual and where people felt free to remark upon it. My mother kept my sister’s and my hair cut in short boyish pixies while all of my female classmates had long hair. I pined to be thin and have long hair, which in my mind were the two things that meant fitting in. I was one of the first girls in my class to need to wear a bra and then was almost always been bustier than my peers, which brought on a kind of sexual attention that I hadn’t asked for and didn’t know how to handle.

And it wasn’t just about appearance; I was told in no uncertain terms to tone down my academic achievements lest I scare off the boys. I was taught don’t toot your own horn, (which was something I eventually had to unlearn to a certain degree in order to progress in my career).  Displays of anger were unladylike. Be a good sport, meant going along with the group, not expressing a dissenting opinion or desire.

So for much of my life, it felt safer to hide. To hide my body, to hide the desire to be seen, noticed, acknowledged.

Yet my exuberant self would break out from time to time. I was always drawn to sequins, lamé and leopard print. I’d often be the first one at the party on the dance floor. During my Renaissance Faire days, I found the costume gave me carte blanche to ham it up on stage, sing bawdy songs (still off-key), flirt shamelessly. I loved the attention and lack of judgement. And sometimes my exuberant self still comes forward and begs for bright colors, a bit of sparkle, a redder shade of hair color, to turn up the volume belt out the lyrics to a favorite song.

It’s human nature to want to fit in to some degree. We are social animals, and our survival depended on being part of a group. This is hardwired in us, I believe. But so is the desire to be seen as a unique individual, and style is one of the ways we express that desire. We’ve talked a lot in the blogosphere about women of a certain age and how we become invisible; I think our own fears about standing out sometimes play into this. Many of us came of age in a culture that didn’t applaud standing out, as much as we may have wanted to do so, and that early conditioning can be a bitch to overcome. Granted, there’s an extreme level of attention seeking that smacks of desperation, but when we dress and act in a way that’s a true expression of our most vital selves we gain confidence and power.

We all have our own equilibrium between Fitting In and Standing Out, and it can shift from day to day.   I’m working to get to a point where fear of judgement has little to do with my style choices, and the only lines I worry about stepping over are my own. I’m not totally there yet. But I’m turning my friend’s question around and on its head, and asking myself without judgement and with an open heart and mind, “Who Do You Think You Are?” in order to get closer to that goal.

“Know who you are and dress accordingly.” –Tim Gunn

Do you still struggle with Fitting In vs. Standing Out?  I’d love to hear about some of the positive ways in which you proudly stand out.

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  1. Anonymous
    October 10, 2012 / 10:12 am

    This post certainly brought back some painful memories.

  2. October 10, 2012 / 10:13 am

    Hmm, food for thought, I’m quite an insular person so I don’t like sticking out, one of the reasons I love going out in my gym clothes/specs/no make up is that no one gives me a second glance, when I’m ‘done up’ everyone stares and I feel really uncomfortable.

  3. October 10, 2012 / 11:10 am

    Very interesting post! I’ve always been too shy, and I tend to wear classic clothing—Understated Elegance is what I called it, which was perfect for me, nice but didn’t stand out. It has taken many years of trying to finally be able to wear a scarf around my neck!! Wearing something bold like red, peep toe heels brought out a different me when I wore them!

  4. October 10, 2012 / 12:09 pm

    I was always the object of derision because I was skinny and academic. And I wanted to fit in desperately which led me to downplay my academic talent. What a mistake! Now I love who I am and I proudly embrace my inner nerd. I also love fashion (not the sole domain of the pretty girls), good makeup and cultural events even when I have to attend them alone. And I have a granddaughter whom I encourage also with the mantra, “I am a strong, smart, independent girl.” She is confident at 4 years old and I hope she is able to maintain that spark.

  5. October 10, 2012 / 12:31 pm

    Oh we were so similar in grade school. I too was plump (and with a name like Patti, the rhymes were cruel) and had short, curly hair. I dreamed of a figure like Twiggy and hair like Peggy Lipton. I was also taught to be modest and not “outsmart” the boys. It has taken many decades to sort it all out. In my thirties, a counselor I was seeing helped with this acronym: CHOWS – I am a CHOWS woman: Confident, Humorous, Open, Worthy and Strong. Oh, and visible ; >

  6. October 10, 2012 / 12:58 pm

    It seems that your experience resonates with each of us, maybe in somewhat different ways, but with clear examples of our experience. In that time, I think it was indeed a girls burden to be the person you described. I don’t understand how or why that occurred, but historically women have always been second. Or third depending on how much the man of the house liked his horse, his car, or his club! My Mother referred to me as “Lady Jane” implying that I thought I was better than everyone else when just the opposite was true. I struggled with this all my life and just now, on the other side of middle age, I have re-defined myself. I see many like me and hope that they discover their own peace with the person they were meant to be versus the person defined by social mores, other people, and those in our family who attempted to “protect” us from the world.

  7. October 10, 2012 / 1:14 pm

    I always felt like a bull in a china shop. I actually feel better now that I have gained the capacity to blend in, when I want, as opposed to having learned how to stand out. I think as Corrine says, so many of us ran into this, all in our own ways.

    I love every single bit of standing out and edginess you show.

  8. October 10, 2012 / 2:28 pm

    I can very much relate to this, although for me it was not my parents from whom I felt this pressure, but my peers — who were not quite peers because I was a year younger than my classmates all through school. Probably not as significant difference as it seemed to me, but combined with shyness and my bookworm propensities. . .
    Do you know that this phrase is so resonant for Canadian women of my generation and earlier ones that Alice Munro titled an early collection of hers Who Do You Think You Are?. It was given a different title in the US (The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose) presumably because her American publishers thought her eponymous phrase wouldn’t have the same resonance in your country — sounds as if they were wrong!

  9. October 10, 2012 / 2:29 pm

    btw, by my standards, you stand out now, my dear, a shining light indeed!

  10. October 10, 2012 / 2:54 pm

    Gosh we might have been raised by the same mother Susan!

    I was plump (still am by current standards) busty and had to wear a short pixie type bob with bangs which mother cut regularly. Fitting in and not drawing attention was Mother’ s mantra.
    I remember rebelling when I was in my teens by wearing longer hair (which was referred to as the cave woman look by my family) and donning denim jeans. It’s interesting though all of us gals HAD to wear either Levi’s or Lee jeans any other brand and they would scream WRONG! So even in rebellion we wanted to fit in.
    Love this trip down memory lane…great post.

  11. Anonymous
    October 10, 2012 / 3:07 pm

    I can so relate to the pump young girl with pixie hair that was told to not “rise above my raising”. Could not have expressed the sentiments better. I really appreciate all the work you put into your blog. I look at your blog every morning – so inspiring. Thank you.

  12. October 10, 2012 / 4:01 pm

    Thank you for the thought provoking post! You write so many wonderful ones.
    In my childhood I always stood out because my mother hand sewed all my clothes and they never looked like what anyone else was wearing. I don’t recall becoming uncomfortable about that until we moved to New York and my strange Canadian accent made my standing out just that much more obvious. I regained the joy of standing out in my 40’s and am happy to dress distinctively. The stress of trying to fit in crushes our creativity and exuberance!

  13. Anonymous
    October 10, 2012 / 4:55 pm

    I turned 50 two weeks ago. At work we are taking picture for the company website and the advice sent to everyone was to wear neutral colors. In the past I would have worn a suit and a button down collared shirt. Today I wore an emerald green silk shell with a v neck under my blazer – to heck with neutral and blending in!

  14. Anonymous
    October 10, 2012 / 6:11 pm

    Oh how I want to fit and stand out at the same time. My head as all the images of how I want look but sadly the mirror always lets me down. I love your style blogs I so want to look like this. Minimum amount of clothes with maximum impact.I recently stopped working due to health issues so money is not so available as before. I have always tried to buy quality clothes but end up with lots of odd things with nothing to match. Hopefully with your help I can now achieve what I have always felt was the impossible.

  15. Anonymous
    October 10, 2012 / 6:11 pm

    What a great post. I always wanted to fit in as an adolescent, but never did. So I became angry with my “peers” since I wasn’t good enough for them. Learning to love and accept myself has been a lifelong journey.

  16. Laura
    October 10, 2012 / 11:43 am

    Excellent post. I grew up wanting not only to fit in but to be invisible. I think I was afraid of my power-of being an individual. I pined for long straight hair. But alas I have wild curly hair that just will not be tamed. Fianlly, at age 62, I’ve decided to let it be. I don’t stand out so much, but I am keenly aware of my “differentness”. I love fashion, horses, and I’m a vegetarian. In the small southern town where I live, I share none of these passions with anyone else. (I don’t wear pajamas to Walmart just to fit in!) I am finally proud and comfortable with being different. I finally like who I am.

  17. Ms. M
    October 10, 2012 / 1:08 pm

    I remember when I was young and I would try a new way of dressing or grooming, or act in a way that brought out a stronger side of my personality– anything that made me shine …. My mother would disapprove and say “you should just be yourself.”

    Of course this phrase is something that young people hear a lot. But I had a problem with it. I thought I didn’t want to be myself. My self seemed so uninteresting and unattractive.

    It took me a long time to realize that this boring person wasn’t my true self. And that what my mother really meant was, “Be the self that makes me comfortable.”

  18. October 10, 2012 / 8:35 pm

    Oh, Pseu – so much of this rings a bell! I was also too plump (my mother was obese, so the ragging and nagging on me started very early). The hair cut in a pixie (by aforementioned mother, so badly). And also, the shortest. From Kindgergarten all the way through… you got it… graduation from high school. (Any wonder I like my heels?)

    And we won’t discuss the boobage; my cup(s) runneth over on a shrimpboat isn’t cute!

    But while I was expected to fit in (my mother wanted to “stand out” and we all allowed her the spotlight); if anything, I wanted to disappear. (Shades of my own musing on a dream today?)

    As an adult, in business, you must stand out to some extent – especially if you are female and small. I learned to do so with my “presence” – but it wasn’t easy. And one thing I will give my mother – she never wanted intelligence squelched; if anything, she taught me to nourish it.

  19. Sandy @ You May Be Wandering
    October 10, 2012 / 2:11 pm

    What a thought provoking post – at almost fifty, I still don’t like to stand out. Maybe in my next half century, I can learn to shine!

  20. Amber of Butane Anvil
    October 10, 2012 / 3:18 pm

    Susan, you do a beautiful job of articulating the insidious and toxic methods of social control, the spirit-quashing enforcement of our cultural notions of traditional “femininity.” I cheer for the persistence of your exuberant self, and this is brilliant: “…when we dress and act in a way that’s a true expression of our most vital selves we gain confidence and power.”

    Awesome post!

  21. Anonymous
    October 10, 2012 / 10:27 pm

    thinking about this used to occupy my mind.. I am from the South and being a bright female was no way to fit in anywhere at anytime.. I have always felt that somehow fitting in was selling out but to stand out is welcome slings and arrows and being shot down as in who do you think your are.. these days I simply no longer care.. I do what I think is best for me if I fit in so be same for standing out.. life is too short

  22. Anonymous
    October 10, 2012 / 10:29 pm

    above should read : if I fit in so be it…etc.

  23. Gretchen
    October 10, 2012 / 3:43 pm

    It astonishes me how, by trying to help our children navigate the world, we so often, unwittingly, cause lifelong damage. I cannot imagine your mother wanted to crush your soul, but her advice was tragic nonetheless. I often wonder what I may be doing to my own girls that will haunt them, and me, ages from now, and try to guide them gently, while letting them find their own way. I will have failed in many deeds, but I can only hope they will be strong and forgive me these failings.

  24. Kathy Leeds
    October 10, 2012 / 4:35 pm

    Very thought provoking post. It depends on my mood, sometimes I want to just blend in, be invisible, and other days or evenings, I want to stand out a bit. But my nature is inward, so I’m sort of happy blending in.

  25. October 10, 2012 / 11:50 pm

    Just came across this:
    . . one of the great rhetorical tricks of patriarchy is to define women’s value in terms of appearance, and simultaneously to define appearance as something so utterly trivial that only completely shallow and useless creatures — like, say, women! — would care about it.

    -Kate Harding and also attributed to Sweet Machine, a blogger on Hardin’s blog Shapely Prose

  26. Anonymous
    October 11, 2012 / 12:56 am

    I’m 60 now, but it took me until age 50 to be even somewhat comfortable spending money for clothing for myself. i was taught total frugality as a child and that it was selfish to want nice things for yourself. It has been a TOUGH thing to overcome. And even now, I just want to blend in.

  27. Anonymous
    October 11, 2012 / 1:11 am

    A very thought provoking post, judging from the comments so far. For me,and I think we are about the same age, I guess I stood out a bit in my youth and I was okay with it. My parents were very much into being self-effacing and modest, but they absolutely encouraged me to be smart and accomplished. I do remember boys saying things like, “do you have to be so darn smart all the time?” Add to that the fact that I’m fairly tall, and I guess was reasonably attractive, so I scared the hell out of boys in high school. I remember that at our graduation party, a couple of different boys came up & kissed me, saying “I was always scared of you”. Alcohol gave them courage, apparently. So I could have dated more in high school, had I known!

    Rght now I am dealing with the middle aged woman invisibility thing. I was not overweight until my forties, after childbearing, but I spent about 13 years being fat and invisible, and also miserable. In the past year I got it together and am back (nearly) to my normal, pre-pregnancy weight. So now that presents a whole new question of how to dress; what is age-appropriate vs. being frumpy and matronly? I did just buy two (!) pairs of the NYDJ coated jeans, sort of faux-leather, and am debating whether to keep one or both pairs. Too edgy for my age, or just cool and interesting?

    And then there’s the question of how I’m raising my 17 & 19 year old daughters. Both are very, very smart, and I think they know not to dumb it down, ever. But they are both pretty shy socially, and more conservative in their style than I was at their ages. Both kind of want to blend in, but it’s hard for them; one is six feet tall, and the other has wildly curly hair, which is gorgeous, but not “in style” of course. Luckily she doesn’t try to straighten it, and finally I think appreciates that it makes her stand out (plus she has dyed it red!). I want them to be confident and proud to stand out, but I guess that’s a work in progress. Not surprisingly, they both intimidate the hell out of teenage boys. Not entirely a bad thing.

    —Jill Ann

  28. Debbi@SheAccessorizesWell
    October 10, 2012 / 6:49 pm

    When I was growing up, I also developed before the other girls and was always larger busted than all the other girls which made me stand out in a way I was never comfortable with. I also had really bad cystic acne and that is a horrible thing to deal with. I remember my parents bullying me about washing my face and told me no boy would ever want to kiss me with pimples on my face. I have always avoided looking people in the face because I tried to believe no one would notice my awful skin if I did not look at them.

    I did have stick straight hair which my Mother always permed into oblivion. I hated my permed hair, but did long for some curl to be like all the other girls with their perfectly flipped hair. When my hair wasn’t permed it was in a pixie. My younger sister, who had beautiful blond hair always had long hair and not permed. I guess even then, blond was better than mousey brown, at least to my Mother.

    Isn’t it odd that so many of us who had such a terrible time as young women are now blogging? I never thought I was good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough.

    Very good post. It made me think about how all the good and bad experiences in my life have made me what I am today.

  29. October 11, 2012 / 2:21 am

    This is a great conversation! I think the reason we want to blend in is hardwired into us. Look at the animal kingdom. The zebra with the black and PINK stripes was always the one to get shunned. And if you were shunned, you could be eaten! Imagine if our cave dwelling ancestors didn’t like that you wore red briefs when they were all wearing thongs made of leather, you’d be dumped and abandoned. Left alone on the tundra to be eaten by some prehistoric cat.

    Luckily, we wont be eaten by standing out, but we still might be made to feel “odd” or not a “member” of a certain tribe. Hence, we may avoid fashion risks or “statements” about ourselves, opting for self disclosure based on other creative pursuits.

  30. October 11, 2012 / 3:16 am

    Nowadays I want to stand out!

    • October 11, 2012 / 4:51 am

      P.S. I’m guessing you DGAF these days 😉

  31. Anonymous
    October 11, 2012 / 4:48 am

    Why fit in, when you are born to stand out? from Dr Seuss..

    I am learning the hard way to be me.

    Irene, Sydney

  32. Jean at www.drossintogold.com
    October 10, 2012 / 11:58 pm

    Wow. Parallel universe. When I was 14, I spent my carefully saved mothers-helper money on a pair of Frye boots. I can see them perfectly. When I proudly showed them to my mom, she was horrified by the exorbitant price of $40 (yes, that was 1969, but I had earned the money myself). She said those exact words, “Who do you think you are?!!!” I was crushed and felt sick every time I looked at them after that. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of how I was raised.

    I’ve tried to understand that kind of mentality over the years, given our respective generational differences. After I muddled through an abusive first marriage (maybe if I was good enough he would be nice), I finally fled along with my two children. I’ve made progress in answering that fundamental question. I still don’t have a definitive answer but I’m able to listen to my own thoughts and feelings vs someone else’s. I’d like to think I’m a work in progress, hopefully never stopping. Whew. You brought back some memories!!

  33. Lynne DeVenny
    October 11, 2012 / 1:17 am

    I can never get red enough hair. Seriously.

    I grew up in an environment similar to yours, except with the polyester elastic waist pants bought in a budget women’s department in an era when every single other student wore jeans, and frizzed out unconrollable hair, ’cause my mom thought dish-washing detergent was the same as shampoo. I was expected to make straight As – and go to secretarial school.

    Maybe I should have, at least for a while, because I was so ill-prepared to handle positive attention, yet craved it and fed it with various forms of bad judgment…for decades. I still feel odd being the center of attention, but think I’m working through it a bit on my blog, albeit within the framework of my professional life.

  34. Anonymous
    October 11, 2012 / 12:06 pm

    Thank you for articulating things that I was taught as a child that I had to unlearn because it simply was not who God made me to be. When I became a cheerleader after trying to be a wallflower for all of my young life, there were many comments about “who do you think you are?” I don’t believe my parents would have let me try out if they thought I would actually make it! When I became a mechanical engineer in 1982 (after many comments from my grandmother to “let the boys handle those difficult things”), little did I know that I would stand out in every meeting, everyday by simply being a woman. It took me quite a while to get accustom to the stares and I soon discovered there was a certain power to being “unexpectedly” good at my work. Once again I find myself standing out since I chose to be a stay at home mom with my newborn at 40! Whenever I get dressed now, the outfit never seems right unless I have one “unexpected” item!

  35. mette
    October 11, 2012 / 5:49 am

    You wrote a very good post Susan. It brought back uncomfortable memories for me too. Memories, I have worked through and have mostly been able to leave behind.
    I want to blend in by how I´m dressed and how I look. I´d only wish I could stand out by who I am. Honestly.

    • Anonymous
      October 11, 2012 / 5:46 pm

      Beautiful, Mette…

  36. October 11, 2012 / 4:00 pm

    wonderful post…i think you are my sister :>

  37. Blume
    October 11, 2012 / 4:25 pm

    The offhand mention that you used to do Ren Faire… ! Love it.

  38. October 11, 2012 / 4:29 pm

    Wow, I think we may all be related! I was encouraged to stand out as “perfect” but not as the real me (who was not born to be a JD/MD/MBA/CEO/POTUS – all at the same time – who looked and dressed like Miss America). So yes to anything that looked like a teen aged’ girl’s first business suit, no to ethnic prints, Asian patterned fabrics, boots, etc. And I was pudgy with naturally frizzy hair too, what a horrid few years that was… Getting louder and wilder with my accessories all the time, still not dressing like Miss America.

  39. Andrea
    October 11, 2012 / 6:31 pm

    Thank you so much for your candid post. It made me realize that many of these childhood fears are still lurking inside me…I had thought those messages were long erased…but I still struggle with not being “the nail that sticks up.” You’ve given me much to think about. Your honesty is much appreciated.

  40. Anonymous
    October 11, 2012 / 8:52 pm

    I still remember the red letter day that I realised I could walk away from bullying ‘friends’. I was probably around 7 years old. I stopped trying to fit in (more or less) and went my own way. If that meant reading by myself in the library at lunch then that was better than hanging about to be hassled.

    Also, I’ve always enjoyed performing and being the centre of attention while singing, speaking etc. Odd, I know.

    In my teenage years I went through a phase of rejecting all name brands (i.e. no Levis jeans for me). I couldn’t afford to have all the latest stuff and wanted to be ‘alternative’.

    I have always been very focussed on being appropriate, however. A big push from my mother about looking smart and appropriate for the situation, whatever it is. This has sometimes gone into a fakeness as I try to be all perky, friendly, professional, perfect and not able to be true to myself. It’s sometime I need to keep thinking about… thanks for the inspiration.


  41. October 11, 2012 / 9:01 pm

    I fear I always make the “safe” choice in dress.

  42. October 12, 2012 / 2:41 am

    such an honest post…and I have also read all the comments….how everybody can relate to it!!!
    I have been rebel since beginning….never tried to fit in….although that too had its consequences…I was given odd stares and not so flattering comments. Being a girl, I enjoyed doing all the things that boys do. Wanted to join army…my father was aghast when he came to know about that…wanted to distribute newspapers or do any job to earn at a very young age….in India, girls are raised in a very stereotype ways and are expected to (or atleast were expected to behave in a very docile/submissive way around 30 yrs. back). I started working at a very early age and many a times, was the only female in a crowd of men..never did typical things.

    Even now as I approach to be a mother in law….people expect to see me talk, dress up and behave in a certain manner, but I am what I am…I dress up for my comfort and style and do things which go with my overall purpose of life…!!!

  43. October 12, 2012 / 5:11 pm

    Thank you all for your supportive and thoughtful comments, and for sharing your own experiences. It wasn’t my intention to focus on the negative, but sometimes looking at those early influences can help us sort out our own voice from the rest. The important thing is that we re-examine any beliefs that are holding us back or diminishing our lives, and pull them up, roots and all, just like a weed.

    • October 19, 2012 / 4:59 pm

      Well said. I resonate with your post on many levels. For me, it seems too late to learn how to stand out. The message of needing to blend in is too ingrained. But I rebel in little ways, for example by wearing my chucks and my STFU necklace :).

  44. October 13, 2012 / 12:34 am

    oh, yuck. my dad used to say ‘who do you think you are?’ when he was really mad at me, and to this day the phrase gives me chills. i was never an intentionally bad child (how many of us are?).

    as far as the way i’ve dress…i’ve always been a little different than other people, and that’s definitely translated into the clothes i wear.

  45. October 14, 2012 / 3:36 pm

    I stopped trying to fit in when I understood that I never would. I always stood out and I’ve always been different. I was the chubby kid with short hair and who was almost always quiet. I defended anyone smaller than me and was loyal to anyone who showed me a bit of kindness. I have always thought differently and processed things in a different manner, and all my unique traits were then inadvertently labelled as weird. I realised that even reinventing myself and trying to fit in at a new place was no different, the person I have been always stood out.
    Finally in my 20s I grew out of this cycle of trying to be someone I’m not and have focussed all my attention in being as me as I can. I still am uncomfortable drawing too much attention, I never could get used to it though I always craved it. I’m slowly learning to relax and be myself and to stand up for myself.
    My so called weirdness is what defines me. I’m never giving that up.

  46. Anonymous
    October 14, 2012 / 9:16 pm

    Thank you for this article. I think that I grew up as the trend to make girls fit in was waning, also my mother was from Europe with and accent and a fierce sense of style. In my teens our battles were mainly about my clothes. When my children started school and throughout I told them that the feeling of being different and not fitting in is how everyone feels whether they are perceived as being the in crowd or not. The characterists of mean girls and the in crowd? That’s them hanging on tooth and nail to that prestige. Another mother told me me son was part of the top “in” crowd in middle school and it actually worried me. Thank you.

  47. California Girl
    October 15, 2012 / 1:34 pm

    You bring back the pathos of childhood: making, being in the “in” group, figuring out what’s really important and, ultimately, finding yourself.
    Painful indeed.

  48. cwhf
    October 18, 2012 / 8:51 pm

    What an awesome post. I too was a chubby girl who developed early and all I wanted to do was hide and not be seen until I was 30. I realized I could own and control my beauty on my own terms. I am still on this journey of valleys and hills but so much more confident than that scared ashamed girl I was. Honestly my reply to the dreaded “who do you think you are?” I hope would be a resounding “I am meand proud of it

  49. November 10, 2012 / 12:07 am

    Brilliant post! So many memories! I recall being brought up in a similiar way and can relate to your and many of the commenter’s stories above. I learnt that I liked to stand out in my teens and over the years I also learnt the hard way that there are quite a lot of people you will come across who will have a problem with that and at times be prepared to be quite mean about it. It still makes me feel out of my comfort zone to be standing out rather than blending in or even being invisible, but if I go the latter route I somehow always feel like I have lost some integrity. And women in careers absolutely need to change their thinking about blending into the background and embrace standing out.

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