Do you laminate everything?
Imagine. You complete a project, save a piece of your child’s art or school work, save an award. Then you pull out your lamination machine and cover your accomplishments in a protective film. Now it’s safe, nice and neat, and can be displayed with minimal risk of it being destroyed.
But is it really safe?
Or are you just hiding your accomplishments behind a protective sheen of perfectionism, of people-pleasing? Are you solidifying your role as the “teacher’s pet?”
This has been me for nearly all of my life.
I was branded as the “teacher’s pet” early on in my school years.
It became ingrained in my identity, in my personality from the first days of elementary school. I was terrified of not doing what the teachers said to do, of not following the rules.
I had no option other than staying quiet and being the “good” kid.
Throughout grade school and high school, I was the stereotypical “pleasure to have in class.” I got straight A’s. The teachers loved me.
I was always handed in assignments early. And I was consistently mocked by certain kids. They would roll their eyes at me when I would present projects or when we would get quiz or test grades back.
Elementary and middle school were brutal for me in these respects, but it took on a whole new meaning, a new level, at the beginning of my high school career.
At the beginning of freshman year, our teacher assigned a typical “ice-breaker” style assignment in health class, and for once, I was actually excited about an assignment.
Little did I know, this assignment, this moment, was the first smack in the face that I wasn’t seen for who I truly was.
We had to put together a collage that represented who we were – our likes, interests, hobbies, all that jazz.
Then, our teacher would present them for us. We wouldn’t know who’s collage belonged to who – that was the point of the assignment.
Based on the pictures and words on the cardstock, we had to match the personality represented by the cut and glued magazine images to the student who put them together.
I put a lot of thought and time into my collage, of what each picture represented for me. I was so excited for my classmates to see my interests, my hobbies – everything that spoke to my soul.
I wanted it to be perfect.
So I laminated it.
When our teacher presented my collage, one of my classmates took one look at it and said, with obvious amusement and snark, “Oh, that’s obvious. It’s laminated – it must be Sarah’s.”
My heart sank as all of my classmates agreed. No one mentioned or acknowledged the pictures I had so carefully selected. Even when the teacher tried halfheartedly to point some out, everyone else had already moved on.
No one saw my personality, who I was – they only saw that it was laminated.
And that became the theme of my life for many years to come.
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As I went through the various stages of life, I continued to avoid the rough edges.
I attended a class in college in a hybrid fashion, so that I could take two courses at the same time. When I showed up to the class in person for the first time, one of my classmates said, somewhat jokingly, “Oh man, you’re in this class?”
I sank into my chair and buried myself further into my work.
In my career, I was mocked by my coworkers during the annual Christmas party trivia game for knowing the answers to the questions or for getting excited or competitive. My managers would laugh at me for being excited about nerdy topics or TV shows or movies.
So, to make up for these “failings,” I continued to be the “teacher’s pet” with my managers, jumping on extra assignments or directives or “requests” – even when I was drained, overwhelmed, and burnt out.
All of these experiences reinforced in me the belief that I needed to laminate absolutely everything.
I needed to bury who I truly was, hide it within a protective sheet of plastic, to keep myself safe. I stuck so much of this plastic covering on my personality, I struggled to see who I was for myself.
It took many years to finally see that it’s ok not to laminate every little thing about myself.
It’s ok to have rough edges.
While I still have those urges to laminate every little thing, I am doing the slow but steady mindset work to embrace my rough edges.
It’s not easy, and it’s been slow going. Mindset work is never simple, and it takes a lot to break through the limiting thoughts and beliefs and fears that we have about ourselves.
I’m working on being aware of when I start to lean back into people-pleasing and perfectionism. This is definitely easier said than done, especially when people-pleasing mode has been our “comfort” zone for so long. But even if we’re reflecting after the fact, we can take those reflections and lessons to put into practice in the future.
And that’s the key – practice.
I’m practicing getting comfortable with sharing my interests without so much of a filter. I practice being ok with the “rough draft” of sharing.
I’m learning who it is safe and comfortable to be myself with, and who may not truly be my people, my tribe. And as I continue this practice, as I continue to learn to trust my gut instincts, it slowly becomes more comfortable to let those edges curl up, tear, or change.
I’m embracing my own rough edges. How can you start to embrace yours?
Ultimately, we need to find the confidence to show the world who we really are, without fear of the rough edges, the possibility of being seen as a rough draft. We need to learn how to take baby steps to feel safe without our protective plastic coating.
We can’t hide behind perfectionism and people-pleasing forever without becoming burnt out and overwhelmed. So, let’s slowly start to peel back the laminate, allow our edges to curl, to bend, maybe to tear slightly.
But ultimately, let’s allow ourselves to breathe freely and be ourselves.
What has your life, your personality, looked like up until now?
Have you laminated it?
How can you embrace the rough edges, the rough draft?
If you’re struggling to feel safe in embracing those edges, come join a community of weird, nerdy, recovering perfectionists and people-pleasers. Come share your struggles and learn how to embrace your rough edges in a safe, non-judgmental space.