Making sense of the urge to belong

When I was young, I tried to fit into the crowd.

I was ultra-concerned about what everyone else would think.

If it wasn’t the type of jeans I wore, it was my shirt or shoes. If the jeans didn’t say, “Levis”, there was no way I could go to school; it just wasn’t possible.

Learning sometimes took a back seat to 'trying to fit in"

My Dad sensed my angst, sat me down and said: “Daniel, Mark Sheehan is not going to laugh at you; who cares what anyone else thinks? You are your own person.” (Mark Sheehan was a neighborhood friend.)

Being 12 and naïve, I dismissed his parental counsel as rubbish: just your typical stuff that goes into one ear and out the other.

Now, with a number of years under my expanding belt, life comes full circle.

I now coach my children when a classmate teases about a new hairstyle, the way someone runs, or why a child thinks peanut butter and jelly should NEVER be eaten every day for lunch.

Today, there’s incredible pressure to belong. With more transparency, or less privacy (you decide?), the websites we visit, the people we follow online, the information we deem as valuable is right there in the open (for everyone to see).

As my children take their digital training wheels off, I’ll teach them about the digital consequences about posting an inappropriate photo or saying something in a forum, Facebook, Twitter that does not inspire, lift or engage.

Some sage said: “Act your best when no one’s watching.”

How about: “Tweet, post or comment with your best self in mind.”

Use the power of opening up your likes, favorites, photos with caution. It’s powerful to know what others deem as popular, yet let’s raise the next generation with the confidence to make their own decisions, not just follow the herd. Thinking independently need not be a forgotten art.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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