In My True Light

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“I too am guilty of labeling people based on first glances. But through my own story, I’m realizing that these initial impressions we form of each other can be so damaging and contradictory to who we really are.”

Light_ClaireEarlier this year I acquired a new nickname: eClaire.

I kinda like it. You might even say it’s a step up from Clairebear.

This new name was given to me during our spring SheLoves trip to Africa after fellow SheLovely, Kelley Nikondeha, concluded that every day I was wearing something new and, in her opinion, elegant. The other girls seemed to agree.

I was a little surprised to be truthful. I don’t think I’m particularly elegant in my dress sense, but apparently others do.

And this seems to be a theme in my life, because I was out to dinner with a friend last week and she apologized to me for wearing Birkenstocks.

Again, I was a little shocked. Why would my friend, who recently moved and hasn’t quite unpacked her shoe closet, feel the need to apologize for what she was wearing?

She went on to tell me that despite the Birkenstocks she had actually dressed up for me. Smart pants, elegant white top, pretty necklace. She did look lovely—to me she always does.

But she had been out with her husband the night before and apparently he hadn’t received anywhere near the same treatment. Think yoga pants and you’re with me.

So why did she feel the need to dress up for me?

Reconnecting

We ate dinner at our window table overlooking the ocean and watched the sun go down. Caught up on family life since the last time we had a girl’s night, then went for ice cream and walked along the beach promenade. We joked about the romance of the setting and how we should be holding hands.

We talked about community and how this past school year Renee found great community with her son’s Grade two class mums.

I, on the other hand, could not say the same.

It’s always been an issue for me. Faced with strangers (our classes are remixed every year which means new parents with every grade) I really struggle to show up and be me.

In fact there’s one parent whom I’ve tried to connect with who has always avoided me and I’ve never known why.

There’s nothing I want more than to join in a conversation or start one, to begin friendships with the other moms.

But it rarely happens. When faced with new groups, I struggle to form friendships.

One-on-one I’m comfortable; put me in a group and I’m out of my comfort zone.

I told Renee about my schoolyard woes and together we tried to figure out what kind of messages I might be giving to the other parents.

And again the issue of dress arose.

“If I didn’t know you and you showed up to school looking like you do, I would be afraid to approach you,” she said.

“And then there’s the accent. People here just seem to immediately elevate anyone with a British accent.”

Two strikes against me.

And then there’s the other thing I know. I’ve known since grade three when the kids in school called me names like “posh” and “snob” on the playground.

My fear of being around strangers and wanting to integrate sometimes comes across as aloofness and snobbery.

This image I’m presenting—an elegant, aloof Brit who loves stylish clothes, conveys the complete opposite of what I want.

First Impressions

Renee and I continued the conversation by being honest about the impression we gave each other when we first met via a mommy-walking group.

She’s beautiful. I’ve always thought that about her. No make-up, natural beauty. And the biggest smile that makes me feel comfortable in her presence. And after snippets of conversation I wanted to get to know her better.  She became one of those people I wanted to journey with through life, someone I knew right away I could trust and tell her anything to.

She on the other hand thought I wouldn’t want to get to know her. She carries her childhood wounds of being a rejected kid who was never cool enough or pretty enough to be one of the popular girls.

She still feels that way about herself.

So when she met me and saw the “elegant” clothes, decided I was slim and attractive and heard the British accent, she figured I was one of “those popular girls” who would never want to talk to her.

Sigh.

I have never seen myself as slim and attractive. And I have never been one of those popular girls.

I too am guilty of labeling people based on first glances. But through my own story I’m realizing that these initial impressions we form of each other can be so damaging and contradictory to who we really are.

A new school year will soon begin. I’m still eClaire and don’t intend to change anything about the way I look or speak. But I do intend to step out of my comfort zone and make an effort to talk to every class parent, to allow my true self to shine through my words, and to push judgment firmly into my back pocket.

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