I saw a little girl today, about 5 years old. She has a couple pinky hair clips on her hair. She has some missing or angled front teeth and a really bright beautiful smile. She covered her face pretending to be shy to me, and yes, still talked to me to tell me how her day went. As I looked at her, I felt love. I told this little girl. Hey, you are pretty, and I like your hair clips. They are pink. Do you know that I like pink too? I smile. Secretly, deep inside me, I want to tell her, do you know how long it took me to realize that I like pink and how long it took me to realize that it’s okay to like pink? It took me another little girl just like you, my own daughter, to help me realize that it’s okay to be me to the world.
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955
I used to like pink as a little kid, and I don’t exactly remember at what point that I decided that I don’t like pink, and that pink is not cool. It’s probably around the time I got involved with math and physics clubs in school. Most of the guys in the math and physics clubs are Guys. And, so, naturally, they don’t wear pink or play with ballerina dolls. I love math and physics from a young age; it’s a love instilled in me by my parents, and so around 3rd grade, I started attending classes for gifted students in those areas, and participating in competitions. The more I participated in those clubs, and enjoyed the comraderies of my teammates during those practice sessions and intense competitions, the more I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like them, to be like a boy. I dropped dresses for pants. I dropped pink clothes for blue, brown and dark clothes. I traded feeling with facts and numbers. If you can’t explain it with facts and numbers, then it is not true. I told myself that feelings are just untrustworthy. Let’s ignore those feelings. Let’s focus on the facts at hand, and there should be none of those non-sense crying, drama and public display of affection. Life needs to be serious, or I need to be serious to be taken serious.
Then, my daughter came. She is a miracle of my life. She made me understand love. There is just really no logic that can explain my love for her. There is no logic to explain how she as an infant can sense my feeling and me as a mom can sense her feeling. Feeling and intuition become so real, and even more real than facts can prove or explain. Innocent questions with difficult answers start to pour in. At 4 years old, she asked me: Mom, why none of your suit is pink? At 5 years old, she asked me: Mom, why can’t women become presidents? (She just studied about US presidents during a celebration of president day in school, and noticed that none of the past US presidents is woman. Apparently, she asked that question in school, and one of the boys told her that girls cannot be president because they are too pretty and that because they wear pink). My daughter loves to wear pink clothes and princess dresses, and she loves to dance and twirl when standing in line at school, and loves skipping down the hall instead of walking (a teacher actually complained of her immaturity – how she likes skipping down the hall instead of walking). She asked me lots of questions. Her questions made me think. Even at such a young age, there is just so much pressure to conform us to fit in, to have certain behaviors, to wear certain things, and to act certain ages. She also helped me discover the young child inside a grown woman, me. I love to skip too. I love to sing and dance and twirl too. Despite that serious face that I put on, despite all that grey/black/brown suits that I own, there is a little girl inside me that love to tell the world how much I love them, and love to dance/skip/and cry and laugh. Can I smile and treat everyone with love and still be professional at the same time and be tough as needed? Can I wear pink and yes still look business like? Can I at least skip and twirl when no one is around? Can I still be myself and yet be an effective serious contributor to my organization? Can I at least try to answer those “can I” questions?
Needless to say, I did try. I started to wear pink, purple, red, you-name-it-color professional work suits. I started to smile a lot more at work. I started to use the word “I feel” more often. I started to sign my name with a little heart next to it. People were surprised at first, and some even felt uneasy around me, and some said unkind things. However, I must say, gradually, most everyone got used to the new me, and they started to love the new me just as much as I love my authentic me. The thing is if you are just being yourself, you can be the best you, the most authentic you, and it involves a lot less efforts. When you are your best you, you are at your most effectiveness. And, when you are not worried about how you look, and how well you fit in, you can spend so much more energy into doing what’s good and what’s right.
When you dance to your own rhythm,
Life taps its toes to your beat.
I have come a long way from trying to fit in and being this perfect person that meets everyone’s standards, to become this new me who takes small steps outside of her comfort zone in order to become more authentic, to be okay with not meeting everyone’s expectation, to speak up, to admit to the world that yes I like pink too, and it’s a good thing.
Thanks to little girls like you whom I met today, and thanks to my daughter who challenges me – and challenges the status quo. I will always remember what you told me when you were 7 years old:
Mom, your life is a blank book. Write your best story in it. ~Valerie.
Be brave, little girls! You made me cry, and you gave me courage.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. ~Steve Jobs