My darling, you are perfect.
Last week I had to pop into school to drop off one of my daughters readers’ which had been left at home. My visit coincided with lunchtime, and as I walked into the playground the first thing I saw was my eldest daughter sitting there by herself. Immediately my heart lurched into my throat and I fought back tears as I walked over.
“Hi darling, where are your friends?” I asked, acting as cool as possible. She responded “Oh, I don’t know. I’m just having some alone time I guess.”
I could see some girls from her class sitting just a few seats away, I asked my daughter why she didn’t go and sit with them to which she responded they said they wanted to play alone without her.
Later that day I shared my story with my business partners while bawling my eyes out. They were outraged (they seriously love my girls) and then empathetic. They shared stories of their own that made me feel as though it wasn’t just my daughter who experienced moments like this in the playground. Stories about not really finding that connection with anyone, annoyed by playground gossip or friendship drama or what accessories someone is wearing or who's party they did or didn't get invited to. Both of them shared how they preferred to just play sport with the boys because they found girls to be too hard.
We quickly realised that all three of us had not loved school that much and it wasn’t until we all left high school that we really found our crew and formed those stronger, more connecting relationships with people just like us.
Which made me wonder… how many people actually love school? Are we in the minority here? Or is this quite common?
In a perfect world, every kid would just get along and nobody would be made to feel excluded.
But as we adults know, this just isn’t possible. Each and every one of us has a unique genetic makeup that includes personality traits, quirks, skills, faults and personal preferences. We take on things from the environment around us, from what we go through in life and from the people that raise us. We are all inherently different, which is an amazing thing because it’s what makes us who we are.
But when you’re a kid, these differences are seen as “bad” and kids can be so cruel. We’ve all seen or known someone who has been bullied, or perhaps it’s happened to you. Bullying happens because of a multitude of reasons, and can be done in a multitude of ways.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggested my daughter was bullied that morning in the playground, but I did observe her being excluded from another group for whatever reason I don’t know. What I make up in my own head is that she’s a little different from the other kids - she’s not really interested in girls things and would much rather play handball with the boys, which comes with its own set of issues. There are some boys that do not like being struck out in handball by a girl, says my daughter!
I guess this is why I feel so humbled to have met the girls from YDY. Meeting people in your life that are from the same part of town, share your sense of humour, share your passions, align with your values and want the same out of life is kind of like striking friendship gold.
The similarities between the workplace and the playground are strikingly similar. As I sat with my daughter on the playground bench and observed the different personalities eating their lunches in groups of 3 or more, I gave them job titles. “Ah yes, future CEO there, and HR person there, and there’s the Sales guy.”
The thing is, some people never grow out of that school yard mentality and then they enter the workplace, where yet again a wide variety of personalities are brought together, day in and day out, with the expectation that everyone will just get along. Just like the playground people rush to find that connection with those most like them for fear of not being picked for the team.
And this is where things can get tricky. The importance of setting company culture early into a businesses journey is critical and helps business owners to avoid hiring the wrong types of people and possibly ending up creating a culture that negatively affects the business.
We’ve seen this happen in the Uber workplace, where a culture of “boys club” was rampant and caused the decline of the trading price, which meant a complete restructure of senior management and executives and a new female CEO being brought in. And this goes as far as the Me Too movement which has seen an entire industry be shaken up by calling out an unspoken sexual assault epidemic in film and TV.
Every workplace needs an element of the playground in it. That playful, fun, connection that every single person looks for where you can be open and play with ideas, innovation and forward thinking to achieve business goals, however; the bullying, bitchiness and side picking can stay at the gate.
My fear is that my daughter will grow up thinking that, like me, she was ‘weird’ just for being different. That she felt like an outsider and often disconnected from the rest of the world. That she will be too fearful to call out bullshit, or stand up to someone, or demand to be included.
My darling, I want you to know that you are beautiful and perfect just the way you are. Your perceived weaknesses are actually your strengths. Your differences are what is going to connect you to some of the best friends you are ever going to have. Your uniqueness is what is going to get you noticed for all the right reasons and you are going to embrace it because it’s wonderful and it’s brilliant and it’s perfect. You don’t have to try to be like everyone else just to fit in. You be yourself, over and over again, each and every day, ALWAYS choose you.
See You Next Tuesday, and in the meantime YOU DO YOU xxx
Ps. At our place we are IN LOVE with The Greatest Showman. We have the soundtrack on repeat. Here's a tear-jerking, soul-moving clip from one of the rehearsals featuring Keala Settle and Hugh Jackman. Turn it up.