There seems to be a new disease in town; the plague of the clique. This is not only the illness of our children’s generation, but equally so of our own. We seem to feel comfortable in herds, moving as one, dressing the same, wanting to be like the other. Our fear of standing out has become akin to our fear of standing alone; in fact it is this fear of standing as an alone-self that feeds this hunger to be exactly like the others. Our children seem to be imbibing this fear as well. They are soaking in the philosophy that being part of the crowd is what is important, and that there is no price too high to join in the club – the least being one’s authentic sense of self.

Our children watch how we live our lives – how we are careful about what others think about us, eager to outshine our neighbors and join in the competition for who has the “best and most.” The quick learners that they are, they too begin to demand us for the latest “thing,” knowing just how to manipulate us, “Mark has the latest DS, I MUST have it too,” or “Cathy wears Abercrombie all time, I need to shop there too.” They pull at our heart strings, making us feel bad that they will stand out and not be one of the crowd. It is because we ourselves somewhere have imbibed the mindset that fitting in is what will lead to a sense of security within our children that we give in to their demands. It is because we have this fear that unless they are accepted by their peers they will forever be scarred in some way, that we relent to the pressures of being one of the crowd. We don’t only do this in terms of clothes and toys, but also in terms of pushing our children to achieve within extremely narrow parameters of success. Here, grades and performance become the only, narrow measures of worth and ability.

Instead of a panoramic perspective on what it takes to raise an integrated human being, our children lives have been myopically reduced to test scores, and outer appearances. And so it is that the unique, multi-colored blue print that each of our children innately possess gets watered down to a blended taupe, fused with conformity and lacking the signature that marks each one’s creative potential. Instead of infusing our children with the security that they will be accepted for their innate being-ness, no matter how they perform, or look, they are filled with fears of not being good enough for not being traditionally good-looking or intellectual. Instead of being given the message of unconditional acceptance, and the courageous dignity to feel empowered to be who they are, instead they are filled with the shame of disapproval for not “fitting in.” All of this because we parents are unable to own our own different-ness and celebrate the contribution that comes from within us.

If our children grew up in a world where each person’s ability to manifest their innate being-ness was the hallmark of success, suddenly the focus would be on looking different instead of the same. Suddenly, the manner in which each person could institute their creative mark on this world would replace test scores and letter grades. It is when we allow each person to celebrate their own inherent potential that each one of us lives more joyful and free lives. It is here that a vision for a peaceful and enlightened world is realized. It is time that we re-envisioned our approach to the notion of “fitting in.” Perhaps we need to re-center it on the axis of first “fitting in with oneself.”

Dr. Shefali

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