A popular song on the radio right now titled "Cool Kids is a catchy song with a nice melodic sound, but the lyrics are the cry of every young person who thinks, “Why can’t I seem to fit in?”                 

The desire to “fit in” can create a strong sense of insecurity. I believe this is the cause of many issues that young people face today.  Many kids deal with eating disorders, practice self-harm and struggle with thoughts of suicide. With the pressures of school, work and everyday life, nothing can distract the overall desire to belong.  

Adults can help teens free themselves of the belief that acceptance is based on others opinions of them. As parents, leaders and mentors of teenagers, it is on us to be that safe place where young people feel free to be who they really are. One of the best ways we can do this is to give our young people the space to be creative and free.  What does that mean?  It means let them color their hair crazy colors, wear the eccentric clothing, and listen to their music a little too loud…as long as it is not immoral or illegal, pick your battles. When your young person is accepted in their own home, and is able to express himself or herself, you have created an environment of freedom within boundaries. Acceptance at home lays the foundation and helps build the confidence for your young person to be who they were meant to be when they are out on their own.  Remember you only get one shot at this life. Life is an adventure, and that is what we need to express to our young people. Take in the beauty of the adventure. We are all on the journey of figuring out our place in this world. 

I remember growing up as a mixed kid, I call myself a swirly - like chocolate and vanilla ice-cream, and being asked:

So… are you more black or white?

As a child who did not understand labels or stereotypes, I would reply, “I’m me!”

I didn’t have to try to be black or white. I was both, and I never felt the need to fit into any stereotypical box. The acceptance I felt at home to be myself, not defined by skin color, helped me to not feel obligated to fit in a box. Insecurity is something I believe everyone struggles with at some point in their life.  I believe insecurity is a temporary feeling that can easily become a mindset if we allow it to. We all have moments of self-doubt, or even experience seasons where we lack a sense of self-confidence, but we cannot let it become permanent. Our young people will never fit in if we can't properly teach them how to overcome their insecurities and confidently stand out!

Whitney was born in New Orleans, LA and currently lives in Tampa, FL where she works for Watoto Childcare Ministries; a holistic care program based out of Uganda, Africa that helps orphans and vulnerable women. She is also on staff at Core Church Tampa working with youth and young adults. She has a love and passion for music, writing, service work.