I saw your unapproving look. It wasn't lost -- as you maybe had hoped it was -- between the Elmo toddler briefs and the Disney Princess undies. I watched as you tried to force a smile when my two-year old daughter asked for the Thomas the Train underwear. I smiled back. I heard the slight concern in your words, when you said to me, in a voice that was surely meant for a toddler, "But honey, those are only for little boys."
And I told myself that you didn't mean any harm. Maybe you thought I hadn't noticed that the package said, "Boy's Briefs." I had. Maybe you thought you had misheard my daughter's request. You hadn't. In those few seconds that sat between us, I did my best to remind myself over and over that your intentions were good.
But those words -- only for -- they are damaging. Restricting. Isolating. Unforgiving.
I know, because I've spent much of my life trying to exist in an only for world. A world where I'm often told what I can and cannot do, wear, accomplish, achieve based off of my gender, social status, and physcial appearance.
Only for skinny girls, only for pretty faces, only for the extremely wealthy, only for the super talented, only for men.
The problem with an only for world is that it limits all of the beautiful possibilities that dance around us each day. It prevents us from reaping the rewards that come with taking risks because we are constantly being guarded by soceital rules and expectations. It hinders our ability to find power and meaning in the decisions we make. It forces us into cookiecutter versions of ourselves that feel contrived and anything but real and honest. It is the dialogue of others that often becomes our own negative self talk and beliefs.
Yes, I have spent too much of my life existing in this type of world. Existing. Not succeeding. Not thriving. Merely existing. And much of that is my own fault.