By Erin Tarr—“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
As I sat in the stuffy arena, mortarboard atop my head and polyester gown flowing around me, surrounded by hundreds of other eager graduates, I heard Maya Angelou utter these words as our university commencement speaker.
I was so green, young, naïve, and ultimately clueless.
Despite my 4+ years at university, I really had no idea what my mission, passion, or true calling in life might be. So, although the phrase sounded nice, I hadn’t a clue how to be a rainbow for anyone else while I felt I was doing the best I could to navigate my own cloud.
Let’s rewind a bit though, all the way back to junior high….
I don’t know about you, but the middle and high school years were rough for me. Sure there were pockets of good and fun-filled times, but I always felt like I was just a little … I don’t know… not.quite.there.
I felt like pretty much everyone else had it figured out, and I was just doing my best to fake it.
Everyone else seemed…
- better dressed
- more confident
- more mature
- more in style
- more athletic
- to have better hair
- to have better friendships
- to understand the world so much more
- smarter (I was the average student in the high classes.)
I felt like I was constantly working to try to fit in, but in my head I was woefully and acutely aware that I never would.
When popular girls paid any attention to me at all, I was simultaneously giddy that they thought I was worthy enough of their attention and completely tongue-tied and nervous that I was going to say or do something to reassure them that I was not in fact worth their time.
I was so ridiculously awkward!
I often wonder, even now, if any of what I was feeling was felt by the popular girls as well.
Did they, too, need reassurance? Were they also as self-absorbed as I was, simply trying to fit in and maintain their social status? Did they struggle with self-esteem? Did they worry about … anything?
I also wonder whether guys had these issues during those same years.
Looking back now, I just wish I had someone to tell me that…
- these feelings were normal and I wasn’t the only one.
- that it would all be ok, and I could chill out.
- constantly worrying about all of this was a waste of my time and energy.
- everyone feels like an imposter sometimes.
- if you stop focusing on all your own insecurities and start contributing to building others up in your community—you will all
- if I had specific insecurities, they would be a safe person to talk to and help me work through them.
- having a boyfriend was not the answer to fitting in (or anything else).
I wish I had known that being the rainbow for someone else (teachers, parents, the popular girls, whoever!) would have made all the difference to my own spiral of negative self-talk, self- doubt, and insecurities.
I wish that I had a Maya Angelou (or someone like her) to speak truth and wisdom into my life. I wish I had a “non-mom mentor” who I could have turned to, or even who would have butted in and given me unsolicited advice to consider with each turn in the road.
This is why I exist
…so someday fewer girls have to look back with these wishes listed above.
…so they can walk more confidently into their future with a better understanding of who they are, and their place in this world.
…so they can embrace their uniqueness, and be a rainbow every day to make this world a brighter and better place, both as a young girl and as they grow into womanhood.
Today I can confidently say that I’ve changed my mindset, I’ve embraced my own uniqueness, and I love myself. Doe to all of this, I am able to be a rainbow today in someone else’s cloud almost every day. I hope you can too!
About the Author
Erin Tarr is the founder and Head Confidence Coach at Be the Benchmark (www.erintarr.com). She is a speaker, writer, and mentor to young girls ages 8 – 18, coaching them in small groups and 1:1 to help them become the best version of themselves. A mother – she considers her own three girls her primary “clients.”