When I was very young, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I entered a very small, specialized fashion college in hopes of fulfilling that dream. That’s where I met “Jenna.” Though we were never close friends, her effect on me was impactful and lifelong.
I had never met anyone like Jenna before. She was the most overtly creative person I had ever met to that time in my life. She didn’t wear the latest fashions, nor did she dress conservatively. She shopped (and made no pretense about shopping) at thrift stores for her couture. Her outfits were wildly unique. She made use of items other than clothing for her wardrobe. A Lady Gaga of the 70’s.
What stood out more than her attire was her confidence. For the most part, the other students in the school considered Jenna eccentric and “weird.” There was an underlying disdain for her that was undeserved. She was always nice and very supportive to me. But she held herself in quiet poise and elegance which unnerved many of the people I considered friends.
It was that composure and sophistication that kept her in my mind for years following. Jenna didn’t let the negative energy of so many of the people that surrounded her make her change in any way. She boldly went into life being herself. Being true to who she was. And not afraid to let her personality and individuality show. She continued to be confident in herself.
She became somewhat of a silent mentor to me. At the time I was at this school, I was mousey and timid. I had little confidence. My belief at the time was that I had to aspire to be the best “everyone else” I could. Be like everyone, but better, so they would accept and love me.
I would learn, as it turned out painfully slowly, that being like everyone else meant hiding who you really are. And that was the most destructive attitude I could have if I wanted to grow as a person. Being yourself is your greatest ally in personal growth and improving your life.
When you are yourself, you expose who you genuinely are to the world. Your strengths and your flaws are equally exposed. We grow by interacting with one another in various forms of relationship. These relationships teach us what is desirable, and what is not, in our character. If we do not allow ourselves the vulnerability of displaying our authentic self, then we cannot experience the learning power released through that authenticity.
No one is perfect. No one has all the answers. But through the synergy of our connections with others, we learn to improve and become a better version of ourselves. Our best ally in accomplishing this is being who we truly are. By being ourselves.
Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson