I am pretty new to working in a "business casual" environment, and I have spent more time these past few days than I care to admit trying to figure out how to update my wardrobe from "casual college student" to "capable adult at work". This process has left me with many questions, ranging from, "Since there are overalls for adults, does that mean it's socially acceptable for me to wear them, because I would really love that on casual Fridays!" to, "When did the whole world go from covering every available surface from kitchen walls to dog collars to dresses in a chevron to suddenly being completely over it? And more alarmingly, how did I miss this? How do I get on the "this trend is now over" mass e-mail list?"
Obviously I am able to find the humor in this superficial dilemma, but behind the jokes there is a past of insecurity. There are painful memories of years of feeling like an outsider who had no place to belong, and a deep fear of not fitting in that has been suppressed but not completely eliminated. Dozens of other people have written about this topic, and it hurts my pride to admit that I am affected by the selfish desire for acceptance when I know that it is not what I should be seeking.
Today I felt my insecurities from the past start to creep back in, but thankfully I was able to stop them in their tracks because I remembered how exhausting it is to live under the pressure of trying to fit in, and I realized that's not what I want for my life anymore. So I asked myself, What will happen because everyone else was wearing a dress and I was wearing pants? How is that going to affect my life? Are the fashion police going to come lock me up, or am I just going to be shunned so severely that I have to cross the border and start a new life harvesting maple syrup in the Canadian wilderness? In reality, there was so much going on today that my outfit was the last thing on anyone's mind. I was the only one worried about it, and my worry served no purpose other than causing me unnecessary stress.
Not fitting in is uncomfortable. Feeling like everyone else is included in something that you missed out on is disappointing. But conformity, while comfortable, is not the lifestyle I feel compelled to live. So, I'll keep fighting this desire for acceptance by reminding myself that there are more important things, and I'll keep reminding myself that while it's satisfying and fun to look nice, it's much more important to actually be nice. After all, no amount of cute outfits can cover up a bad attitude.