Be yourself? That advice is Bad and Wrong!

Wildling got mad at the radio.

There was a woman talking about the importance of just being yourself, and not trying to conform to others’ expectations.  She kept mentioning the phrase “you should just be yourself.”  I wasn’t really paying attention, and I changed the station looking for music, when I heard an angry voice from the backseat:

“That’s good that you turned that off.  That woman was wrong.”

For a second, I had no idea what Wildling was talking about, but she sounded furious.  I had to frantically think back to what the radio had been saying.  I tried to ask her to clarify, but my usually abnormally articulate daughter was so angry she could barely get the words out.

“That woman was saying bad things and she was wrong. Mama, she was bad and wrong!”

I finally realized what the voice on the radio had been saying.  “Wildling, she said to just be yourself.”

“Yeah, she was wrong.  That was very bad of her to say that! She was bad and wrong for saying that!”

“For saying ‘just be yourself?'”  This went on for a couple of iterations before I got it: Wildling misunderstood.  Because here’s something to know about Wildling: She has an extraordinarily active imagination, and she’s never herself (unless she’s going to the bathroom, then she’ll announce “I’m Wildling now,” and head off to do her private business before resuming her other identity).  Not only is Wildling never herself, Mellow is always assigned a different persona as well.

In the past week, my kids have been:

  • Eagle and Starling (airplanes/jets)
  • Thomas and Steven (trains)
  • Scarloey and Steven (trains)
  • Angelina Ballerina and Starling Airplane Ballerina (ballerinas)
  • Wilson and Coco (trains)
  • Millie and Steven (trains)
  • Eagle and Finch (airplanes/jets)
  • Lucy Locomotive and Choo-choo Charlie (trains again)
  • Sophia and Wildling (yes, Mellow had to be Wildling in this one)
  • The Orange Train and The Silver Train (obviously, trains)
  • The Pink Truck and Tow Truck Ted (trucks, again, pretty obvious)
  • Jack and Tow Truck Ted (guess)
  • Indi and Tex (kids from the Highlights High Five magazine)
  • Tiny and Buddy (from Dinosaur Train)

Wildling will choose who they are and will only answer to whatever name she has chosen, and will only respond if we play along.  If she’s Eagle, for example, and needs her shoes on, I have to tell her to put the covers on her landing gear.  If she’s a train and I need to comb her hair, I need to comb her cords.  If she’s eating, then she is consuming jet fuel or coal, depending on what she is.

So when Wildling heard a woman on the radio telling her to just be herself, she heard “Stop pretending. Don’t use your imagination.  You are only allowed to be Wildling.”  That’s why she was so furious.  That woman was bad and wrong and about to ruin all her fun.

I did have a talk with her about how when she’s using her imagination and being somebody else, that’s an aspect of her character so she is being herself, but I’m not sure how well it went over with her.  It’s confusing to write (be yourself by being someone else which is just being yourself?) so I don’t know how it translated in her three-year-old head.  But at least I calmed her down so she wasn’t so angry anymore.  

My poor girl.  I’ve never heard anyone so upset at what should be positive encouragement.








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