Even before I had children of my own, I was an avid collector of children's books. I would keep them in my apartment, give them as gifts, and at bookstores you could always find me foraging through the children's section more enthusiastically than a 6-year-old. I love them as art, and I love how they can distill life lessons in such a way that even kids can understand. Tennessee has a program called Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, where families sign up to receive one book a month from birth to age 5. One of my son's favorites is called Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, written by Patty Lovell and illustrated by David Catrow. The lesson? You do you!
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon is a book about being your most authentic self no matter your circumstances or what other people say about you.
Molly Lou Melon is a tiny little girl with a big personality and the best grandma ever. By anyone's standards, Molly Lou Melon doesn't have a lot going for her: She's short, has buck teeth, has a terrible singing voice, AND she's the new kid at school. One thing Molly Lou Melon DOES have going for her is that her grandma has given her some advice:
"Walk as proudly as you can and the world will look up to you."
"Smile big and the world will smile right alongside you."
"Sing out clear and strong and the world will cry tears of joy."
"Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too."
Grandma's advice serves Molly Lou Melon well as she encounters bully Ronald Durkin at school. We never find out what Ronald Durkin's problem is, but he doesn't know when to quit! Molly Lou Melon doesn't entertain his negativity and instead adopts the motto, "You do you." If Molly Lou Melon cares what Ronald Durkin thinks, the reader never knows. She does her own thing, is her most authentic self, and at the end of the week when she wins Ronald Durkin over, she writes her grandma a letter to tell her she was right.
Whether you're a parent, doula, new kid, or just trying to get along in the world, you WILL encounter people who seem to feel threatened by your mere existence in their world. Stand tall, friend, and you do you.
It is tempting to be something less than our most authentic selves in the face of disagreement, negativity, passive-aggressive comments, or even bullying from others. The problem? It never works.
Your most authentic self will never be good enough for some people, and making the opinions of others the metric for your worth as a person will always lead to disappointment.
Being our most authentic selves doesn't mean we get to do and say whatever we want free of consequence, but it does free us from being beholden to the opinions of others. Molly Lou Melon doesn't go out of her way to impress anyone; instead, she stays true to herself and in the end finds acceptance and is able to share her gifts with those around her. What if she had hidden and pretended to be something else, or made her life about impressing Ronald Durkin? I don't know about you, but I'm sure glad that wasn't her story! And you know what? It doesn't have to be yours, either!
Take a page out of Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon: shine bright and give the world the best version of you!