Humans like organization. Just look at anything labeled “home organization” and you will see all kinds and sizes of storage solutions. You can store anything in any sort of organizational way you can dream up. You can even build your own organizational system thanks to Pinterest!
While it ‘s great for cleaning clutter, it’s not so great when we put people into boxes based on whatever criteria society has established. From the day we born or even when our parents find out what they are having, your box is defined for you. Here’s a blue box for the boys and a pink one for the girls. Don’t like blue? Too bad. That’s where you belong.
Then, as you wiggle through diaper changes and swat at toys in your crib, your box gains more definition. The blue box means you can’t cry and you must be rough and make sure no one thinks you’re a wuss. The pink is for sugar and spice and everything nice. You better care about your appearance, don’t gain too much weight, and don’t worry if you aren’t that smart; there’s a blue box member waiting to take you into your combined blue/pink married box and he can do all of your thinking for you!
Sometimes people find that their box is a different shade of blue. Like your parents are hippies and you can be a little more sensitive and it’s ok if you don’t like sports. But your dad is a musician, so you must also like music. What happens if you don’t? What about if you prefer baseball and your dad thinks it’s a huge waste of time.
I definitely feel like I was shoved into the most frilly, ugly pink box there was out there. Although I was told I could do anything, I was also given a healthy dose of fear about all kinds of things. Boys just want to have sex, stay away from mean girls, sports will get you hurt, be nice but don’t take shit from anyone, don’t get in trouble at school, don’t start fights, don’t scream at your mother, do as your grandmother says or else, and most importantly, always doubt yourself.
I wasn’t allowed to go to college in another state because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t allowed to get my grandmother’s car because I was irresponsible. I wasn’t able to go on the 8th grade trip because I couldn’t be trusted. I wasn’t able to quit ballet because I needed to learn how to be graceful. I wasn’t allowed to play hockey because it was too rough. I wasn’t allowed to be out past 9 until I was 18 because I couldn’t handle myself.
We take over this “box discipline” as I call it once we are adults. The messages we’ve heard all of our lives reverberate in our brains, telling us repeatedly what we’ve been told all of our early lives. I am irresponsible, I procrastinate too much, I have too much self esteem. We learn to cut ourselves down to fit into these boxes. We hide the most interesting parts of ourselves from people we think won’t appreciate our quirks. We try to fit into the role we think we are supposed to play in life.
A few years ago, I stood up and stepped out of my box. I no longer could be what I thought I was supposed to be. I started mentally preparing for military retirement and my future. I started letting go of all of those things I thought were real and allowed myself to look from the inside out, instead of the outside in. For the first time in my life, I liked what I saw. The person on the inside is way cooler than I ever believed. The person on the inside isn’t afraid to drop “friends” on social media because they want to be loved, even though those friends aren’t real friends.
I am not afraid to try new things that I might suck at doing. I am not one to be held down and forced to do anything I don’t want to. I know it annoys my parents because I don’t things out of obligation; I do them because I want to. So that makes me more genuine now. When I call them and just chat, it’s because I genuinely care, not because I feel guilty.
Now there is no box for me to step into again. It doesn’t exist and I am unwilling to create a new one. Life is so much better outside of the confines placed upon me that I continued to force on myself. But my favorite thing to do now is help people see how they are living in a box. How they hold themselves back by being afraid to try new things or branch out into a different network of people. There’s so many ways to stop living a contained life and live free.
So what about you? Do you live in a box? Or did you shed your box and enjoy living a better life without putting limitations on yourself?