Get Me Out This Claustrophobic Box

I know this is going to sound crazy, but it’s so hard being the “good girl”…The one people put up on a pedestal. I mean I feel like I can’t even make a mistake without it getting blown out of proportion. I can’t begin to tell you how many parents have come up to me and said “please don’t mess up; she really looks up to you.” Or “thank you for showing my daughter it’s ok to have standards.” You can’t begin to understand the amount of pressure that adds to my already crazy life. I understand that to whom much is given, much is required. And I also understand that once you’re put in a leadership position people are going to look up to you whether you want them to or not. I’m not complaining at all. I count it a privilege that young girls see me and say “if she did it so can I.” I love being the example. I love being the one that changes the norm. But at the same time, it’s scary. It’s scary to feel like what you’re doing can affect so many other people. It’s scary to feel like every time you do or say something it’s going to be picked apart and used against you. I used to be quick to tell people that were doing positive things, that they were my role model. But the more people say it to me, the more I realize that as much of an honor as it is, it’s that much more fear. Fear of letting them down. Or not living up to the sometimes unrealistic standards they’ve set for you. I know it sounds silly, but I find myself second guessing a lot of my decisions for fear of disappointing those that consider me a “role model”

I remember when I got my first tattoo. Although I was of legal age to get a tattoo, I found myself trying to hide it from the girls I taught dance to at my local church. Not because I felt like there was anything wrong with it, but because I didn’t want to disappoint them…well really their parents. I didn’t want the parents to feel like I was encouraging their precious daughters to get a “tramp stamp” simply because I had one. I know tattoos are very controversial especially in the church and I didn’t want to be their excuse. I mean I could just hear the argument playing in my head:

Mom: “No sally you can’t get a tattoo, it’s not of God and that’s that.”

Sally: “But mom Danielle has one”

Then the mom is mad at me. Please don’t get me wrong, I could care less about who doesn’t like me or who’s mad at me, but at the same time, these parents have trusted me to teach their daughters  and I don’t want them to be hesitant about sending their child to practice due to fear of what they may be exposed too.

I’m telling you….The pressure is crazy! And it’s not just when dealing with my girls at church. When I was in college my friend and I taught dance at a local High School. This was right around the time FaceBook started expanding to include high school students. Towards the end of the semester one of the girls came into practice and said that she’d seen my FaceBook page and she couldn’t believe I had a Grey Goose bottle in my hand. She went on and on about how shocked she was, and how she couldn’t believe I drank. Of course I wanted to know how she’d even seen my page as I’d denied all of their friend requests. Well it turns out her older cousin attended NCCU, and at that time FaceBook didn’t have all the security features that it has now; so if you attended the same school as someone you could automatically see their page, even if you weren’t their friend. Anyhoo, a couple of practices later her mom came and talked to me and said that this particular young lady was “completely devastated” that I was drinking and that “she thought I was a devout Christian”. My first reaction was to tell her that I was grown and of the drinking age and if I choose to drink, then I had every right too. But I just stood there….I stood there and listened to this woman (who didn’t even know me) tell me how much her daughter talks about and looks up to me. And how her daughter finds being a Christian in High School hard, but would say “Well if Rachelle can do it and she’s in college, I can do it too.” Here I am thinking that I’m just teaching dance. Not even realizing that my life outside the dance studio mattered to the girls. At that very moment it hit me, they hear what I say but they also watch what I do. Now I’m the type of person that HATES explaining myself or my actions, especially when I feel like it has nothing to do with the person I’m explaining myself too, but I had to have a meeting with both the young girl and her mother to explain the picture to them. For the record, I wasn’t drinking. The NCCU dance group was going to Black College Dance Exchange and someone had an empty bottle on the bus. I grabbed the bottle and acted like I was drinking it and that’s when the picture was taken. No, I’m not saying that I’ve never drank, I’m just saying I wasn’t drinking in the picture. Besides, what lady drinks out of the bottle?

But on a serious note, I’m really not complaining….More like venting. Both of those instances were obviously a few years ago and I’ve since learned from them and moved on, but always being criticized is not easy nor is it fun. I’m sure people know I’m far from perfect but I don’t think they understand the amount of pressure I feel. I mean sometimes I feel like I can’t even act crazy without people passing judgment. A few weeks ago I was in my apartment getting dressed to go to a friends birthday dinner. I had the music playing as I always do and Ludacris’ song “How Low” came on. (Yes I still listen to and enjoy secular music) I started acting silly and jumped up on the counter and started dancing. My cousin was there and started taking pictures. I thought the pictures were funny, they showed me having a good time doing what I love to do, and so I posted them on FaceBook. You would have thought I was naked on the counter with a guy between my legs. Seriously! Some of the comments I’ve gotten from some of my church members are like “Oh my, I can’t believe you” or “why is your butt in the air, what are your dancers going to think.” Uh I don’t know, maybe they’ll think I’m just having harmless fun.

I feel like some people have placed me in this tight little box and the moment I go out of the lines, they’re standing there with a whip. Give me a break! I’m 24, I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve been to a club, I rarely drink, I don’t have any children, I’m not shacking up with anybody, I go to work Monday through Friday, I volunteer in my community….I could go on but I digress. For years I’ve just dealt with it.  I feel like “why complain you’re doing something you love to do. Sure it comes at a price but it’s worth the sacrifice.” And for the most part it has been; I’ve felt like people were pleased with me more often that not. But it’s that handful of people that make me feel like I’ve committed the ultimate sin when I don’t do what they feel like I should. If I hear one more person say to me “don’t let your goods be evil spoke of” again I’m probably going to scream. People…Church People can be sooooo critical. I know who I am. And more importantly I know who’s I am. I know the standards I have to uphold. I understand that I’m a “role model” but please understand, I got here without your comments. I don’t need you to tell me every time I don’t do what you think I should do. I have a very strong support system. I have mentors and I have people that aren’t afraid to tell me when I’m off track. I have no problem with being corrected. I do however have a problem with being held to someone’s unrealistic standards; especially when they’re in a glass house throwing stones. So I’ll say this. Yes I am role model. Yes young girls look up to me. But please don’t look at my FaceBook or Twitter pages and try to pass judgment. Both my current Pastor and my childhood Pastor are my friends on FaceBook, both of them are very vocal people. If what I was doing was so bad, do you really think my Pastor would still allow me to be over 2 ministries at church? Seriously? So please save the “you’re a role model speech” I’ve been in this position since I was 16. I’m now 24. No I don’t know it all, but I know God and as long as he’s pleased then what’s your problem?

2 thoughts on “Get Me Out This Claustrophobic Box

  1. Very well expressed! I have completely been where you are and can relate 100%. Even when you feel like noone’s watching, someone who holds you to a certain standard is always noticing you and your actions!
    It is a great honor and priviledge to be held to such high expectations but at the same time you can’t let people dictate to you how to live your life. All I can truly say is live your life and keep God (Jesus Christ) as your guide. With the positive overshadowing the few missteps, anyone who looks up to you will realize that you’re human and the decisions and choses you make are ultimately decided based on your wellbeing, happiness and fulfillment! And if anything they’ll learn from your mistakes and/or make a few of their own to learn and grow! That’s life, noone is prefect except of course our big brother JC, and there will never be another, so we just have to live regardless of how others see us!

  2. Well I could not have said it better myself if I tried. I completely understand where your frustrations come from because it does become a burden when everything you do is picked apart and the great things you do are not acknowledged. I have to admit I do look at certain individuals and say “now why is she doing that!? Isn’t she a mother?”.. And I have tried to monitor my thoughts and my statements because I now know how that feels to be judged on certain things you do. I also know now that since I do have to watch what I do and what I say because I have people looking up to me, that its just preparing me for more greatness! Your absolutely great and you know what your doing is above and beyond so don’t let get to you and continue doing what you do! ❤

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