When I was younger, I was very different from the other kids that I went to school with. I was scrawny and sometimes shy, my family didn't have much money so I wore a lot of hand-me-downs and I had a crazy cowlick right in the front of my head. I was also the only girl that physically developed early (I had boobs), and that caused me to be teased a lot by both the boys and the other girls in my class.
Not only was I physically different, but I had a hard time in school. I had ADHD, which made it hard to concentrate in class and my math skills were terrible. To compensate for my lack of skill and ability, I became the class clown, "cutting up" at the blackboard to mask the fact that I didn't know the answers.
I remember telling my math teacher in the hall that it was bad enough the kids thought I was ugly and geeky, I didn't need them thinking I was stupid too.
I worried constantly about what others thought of me, and it only got worse when I reached high school. I struggled to fit in with some group of kids, any group of kids! I wasn't athletic back then, so the jocks didn't want me; I wasn't smart, so the geeks didn't want me; and I wasn't pretty, so the popular kids didn't want me. Even the Goth kids rejected me, because I was too "normal" for them.
When one of the more popular kids befriended me, I found myself studying her. I wanted to emulate her so I wouldn't be called out as an interloper. I saved all my money from hostessing at a local pizza joint and bought an outfit that looked like hers. I started styling my hair like she did. And even then, I still didn't feel like I quite fit in. When we would go for pizza after school I'd buy for everyone in the group in the hopes that I could buy my way into their good graces. What a fool I was!
It wasn't until my late 30s that I realized how unhealthy and unproductive this all was. Who cared what other people thought of me? My quest to make others like me actually caused me to start hating myself!
A beautiful thing happened when I stopped caring about what everyone else thought; I experienced a rush of freedom! I was finally, after all those years, free to be who and what I was without worry and without pressure.
I'm sure there are still people out there that don't like me, but the difference now is, I don't care. People don't have to like me. I realize that not everyone appreciates my special brand of crazy, but that is no longer my concern.
Once I stopped trying to fit in with others, I found myself, and through that, I ended up finding my tribe. I have a fabulous group of friends that love me and accept me for me. And we don't label ourselves! We aren't jocks, or geeks, or artists, or intellectuals; we're just people. We are a mix of ages, races and backgrounds, and we know we don't need conformity to experience unity!
It took a lot of years for me to be comfortable in my own skin. That's not to say that it doesn't still bother me, just a little, when people don't like me. I think deep down we all want to be liked. But I no longer care that I'm not everyone's cup of tea. I'm happy that I found the strength to shrug my shoulders and keep moving.
Don't be afraid to embrace who you are. And don't let other people tell you who you are "supposed to be." I can almost guarantee you that the people that are trying to define you, don't know who they are either!