This weekend, I’ll visit my daughter Riley at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I’m excited to see Riley but am nervous as well. I’m going for mother-daughter weekend at Riley’s sorority. I was never in a sorority in college. I knew that I wouldn’t fit in because I was nerdy and somewhat reserved in social settings. I felt awkward and unsure. At one point during my second year of college, a boy I had a crush on was describing girl stereotypes based on how girls looked. When I asked him how I looked, he said, “You look smart.” A little piece of my soul died that day.
Thankfully, I learned to be more open in social situations throughout college, law school, and beyond. I became more comfortable in my own skin. I now wear what I want and don’t care as much about what others think. But sometimes, I still fall into the comparison trap. I’m not glamorous like some women who seem to be effortlessly chic all the time. So, the idea of spending time with the mothers of Riley’s sorority friends who also may have been sorority girls, made me anxious. I went through my closet (after I cleaned it) to find some things I hadn’t worn in a while. I went shopping a couple of times to find some new clothes. I got a haircut and a pedicure. I sent pictures to Riley for her review. All of that, and I was still worried.
And I was annoyed with myself for allowing this to bother me. I am a grown ass woman. I felt like I was back in high school, however, so I told my mom about the situation. She immediately responded, “just be yourself.” She’s been telling me that for forty-eight years. Why can’t I take her advice after all this time? But something about my mom telling me to be myself got through to me the other day.
In my Presbyterian denomination’s tradition, we have a phrase, “the church reformed, always reforming.” The denomination began as an effort to reform problems with the dominant religion. But reform didn’t end way back then – we can always learn, do better, and keep striving today and every day. When it comes to me individually, I hope I am evolved, always evolving. I am not the same person I was in my younger years. Not merely on the outside or in social settings, but who I am on the inside. This seems obvious. How sad would it be if any of us were the same as we were in high school or college twenty-five plus years later? But in reality, truly being confident in our mental and emotional maturity is harder when we face something that triggers those old feelings of inadequacy.
If we are still evolving, becoming more authentic as we age, then we can also forgive ourselves when we slip back into old patterns. We can recognize that those negative feelings no longer serve us, as if they ever did. We can continue to change by giving ourselves grace. Instead of letting the past hold us back in the present, we can realize this is another opportunity to grow into our future selves. Perhaps then, we will be more at ease just being ourselves.