Will the Real YOU Please Stand Up?
In the movie Martian Child, Dennis is a six-year-old living his life under a box. Abandoned by his parents, placed in a foster home, and socially rejected, he spends his days literally under a box with a small “window” cut out so he can see. To cope with his circumstances and the danger of rejection, he convinces himself he is from Mars.
How many women experience life from under a box, like Dennis? Many have convinced themselves that they don’t fit, due to some label imposed by others, their own sense of inadequacy, or a lack of understanding of their gifts. The chosen coping skill is often to hide “under a box.”
There have been many opportunities in my life to choose life under a box. (A fun fact here: My first crib was a dresser drawer padded with a quilt. Glad the drawer was left open!) The experiences of multiple changes during my first 18 years built the foundation for my life as an adult and professional. I had the double whammy of being a preacher’s kid and an Army brat. I honed the skills of adaptability and flexibility by moving with my family 18 times—living in 11 cities, 4 states, and 1 foreign country. I experienced nine different schools, including four different high schools.
I was frequently on the outside, as I was the new kid in school and didn’t wear the same style of clothing as everyone else. Although bullying wasn’t as visible as it is today, it still existed back then. With my unfashionable attire, crooked teeth, brown freckles, and obvious large birthmark on my left leg, I was laughed at, called names, and not invited to be part of the popular group.
These experiences early in my life impacted my choices. I could allow other people’s expectations to determine my self-image, or choose to be content and fulfilled with how God made me. My parents taught me principles that I have used throughout my life, as I learned how to live a consistent lifestyle of standing on my story.
I did not wake up one morning and decide that the real me would stand up, and then have it immediately or magically happen! In my personal archives are many examples of lessons learned as I was faced with the choice of living under a box or choosing for the real me to stand up. None were headliner events; they were simply everyday experiences that provided the opportunity to choose myself, every time. Examples range from being left out to being discriminated against to being ridiculed and minimized in a workplace. At any point, the easy or default choice would have been to live under a box. However, if I had consistently taken that approach, I would have missed out on the adventure of being me!
My vocational path has not evolved the way I planned. I have worked in three different environments: college academic/athletic, corporate, and as a business owner. In the first two, I was given increased responsibilities and promotions. In the corporate arena, I filled roles most women didn’t. Eventually, the company changed direction, and I was demoted and kept from engaging my gifts and skills.
After 26 years, I was part of a large group that was told we were no longer valued. I haven’t reinvented myself as much as I have made choices to face challenges and change where I invested in others, not if I would invest in others. The end of the corporate role opened the door for me to choose to start my own business! And now there is no going back!
To all three of these work environments, I’ve applied lessons that I learned during the first 18 years of my life. One common thread is about choice, which is a powerful life skill.
Some might think, So what? There is certainly nothing remarkable about your story—nothing extraordinary or uncommon. However, I invite you to consider this: Each person has their own “headlines” as it relates to their story.
Life is a journey full of cycles and sequences of activities. Some are unexpected and depleting; others are unexpected and invigorating. A limiting belief for many is, “This is my story, and is as good as it gets.” Women are often so busy trying to measure up, they have forgotten how remarkable they are—and so they miss incredible experiences.
I invite you to choose for the real you to stand up! It will release the “you factor” so that you can be a greater influence on those around you. It is not without challenges, or as I like to say, opportunities. When a person chooses to make a shift and embrace who they are, look out! That is why I invest in others—so they can experience that “look out!” factor.
Portions of this version of my story were first printed in my contributing chapter in Overcoming Mediocrity: Remarkable Women.