The Perks of Being an Outcast in Middle School

The Perks of Being an Outcast in Middle School

I’ll never forget the look on Amy’s face when she stopped me in the school hallway and said, “Congrats on winning Most Original. You really deserve it.”

Amy (not her real name) was one of the cool kids.

Even though we were both in 8th grade, she was a woman: significant cup size, fresh-pressed polo shirts, a reputation for drinking and kissing boys.

I, on the other hand, looked like an asexual beanpole. I was bookish, artsy, and prone to thrift store outfits.

Amy didn’t talk to me much. But now she smiled down her freckled nose.

“When the time comes to take the yearbook picture,” she said, “you should wear that blue velvet outfit of yours. It’s super…original.”

I pictured the crushed velvet two-piece I’d worn to school a few weeks prior.

That outfit—an ombre top and ankle pants that Mom gave me for my birthday—was so artsy, it was anti-prep. It was my secret way of standing up to the polished middle school elite.

When I heard the scorn in Amy’s voice, my cheeks burned with embarrassment.

I didn’t want to care what she thought—but I did.

*

You know, social media and the online marketing world feel a LOT like middle school.

If you hang out in Facebook groups or sign up for loads of newsletters, you get a front row seat to the blazing growth and success of other entrepreneurs.

And you can’t help but compare yourself to women who put themselves out there, who show up in a big way, amass hoards of followers, and live happily ever after in personal brand bliss.

You might desperately long to express yourself, but you’re TERRIFIED of what the cool kids will think. (The cool kids can be just about anyone—online experts, faceless internet readers, potential clients with a more conservative/scientific/rational view of the world.)

Or you’re convinced that you’re not interesting, unique, or polished enough to stand out in the crush of online coaches, consultants and creatives.

But when self-doubt keeps you playing small, everybody suffers.

You miss out on potential clients (because they don’t know you exist). And they miss out on the beautiful help that only you can provide!

So here’s my challenge to you: step out of your comfort zone. Go do something, RIGHT NOW, that makes you shiver a little.

The world will thank you for it.

*

Eventually, Yearbook Photo Week arrived. I appeared for my photo shoot behind the gym…in my blue velvet outfit.

Hell yes, I was wearing it!

A fairly accurate version of my shirt I recently found on eBay.

A fairly accurate version of my shirt I recently found on eBay.

I gussied it up with even more of flair (think dangly earrings and pseudo-heels). When the camera flashed, I threw my shoulders back and stood tall (hello, 5’7” at age 13).

I was proud to be different from everyone else, and if Amy didn’t like it, so what?

I trusted that my authentic spirit would attract the right people.

And guess what? It always has.

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