Letting your kids wear “embarrassing” outfits is actually super beneficial in my opinion and experience.
Growing up I was a weird kid with a taste in fashion that could’ve only been the result of bursting forth as a child of the nineties into the velvet-track-suit, denim-on-denim mess that was the early 2000s.
I owned rainbow-striped, knee-high toe-socks. I talked my dad into “punk lolita-fashion” skirts from ebay. There was a hoodie in my collection covered in pastel dinosaurs with a zipper that went all the way up and over my face. There was more than one bowler cap…and a top hat. Need I mention the Naruto headband.
Basically? I was a mess. But my mom let me be that mess. She even complimented some of my worst outfits, and she really meant it. I was her daughter, and she liked seeing me have fun expressing myself confidently.
It’s easy and fun to look back at photos of me in middle school and say “WHO let me out of the house like that???” But my next thought is that I’m so glad someone did.
I didn’t realize it at the time, and perhaps neither did she, but what my mom was ultimately doing back then when she let me leave the house in a pepto-pink costume-dress and spongebob flip-flops was letting me decide whether or not I look “embarrassing.” She took away the power from everyone else to make me feel bad about the way I look, because she taught me that my opinion of myself mattered more than that of anyone.
If I like the way I look in something, it stands to reason I must look good. That was the incredible confidence my mom built into me from a young age.
And let me tell you, it’s lasted. Of course, I have better judgement now–being an adult–as to when it’s appropriate to show off my love affair with questionable fashion (i.e. not job interviews), but I’m never afraid to have one.
I am obsessed with fashion; it’s such a powerful means of self-expression, and I love using it to feel free, confidant, and the most honest version of myself as possible.
But time and time again I hear the same thing from admirers in public, from coworkers, from friends: “I’m so jealous; I don’ have the guts to wear the things I like.”
And that breaks my heart. Back when shaving the side of your head was a new, brave thing, a girl my age told me sadly that her father wouldn’t ever allow her to cut her hair. I couldn’t believe it. She was nearly an adult, and her dad apparently owned her hair, and consequently, to some degree her identity.
That’s stuck with me for years.
People bring up all the time, and I’m not kidding, my confidence and ability to leave the house in anything I like. They even tell me it’s their dream to cosplay, but they’d never be brave enough.” Not brave enough to wear a costume among other people in costumes!!! That’s so upsetting!
Beyond that, people comment on my confidence to do the things I want to do, to pursue my goals and happiness unapologetically.
I’d like to take credit for it all–to say that I raised myself into a person who (usually) isn’t afraid to be who she is. But I know there’s just no way the credit is mine. My mom, my dad, my uncle and older siblings, anyone who ever looked at me in the most disastrous outfit an eleven-year-old could ever concoct, saw the smile on my face, and told me I looked good–they’re the ones who put together this confidence piece-by-piece until it shone bright, stubborn, and strong.
It’s not impossible to forge confidence so true as an adult if nobody ever supported it when you were young, but it is difficult. I watch my friends struggle often with it, and I wish they’d had a jump-start too. I want everyone, and I mean everyone, to feel happy, comfortable, and confident in their favorite clothes, makeup, and most of all their skin.
That’s why I am begging you, parents and future-parents: As long as they’re safe and not harming anyone else, let your kids make their own decisions about their bodies, clothes, and identities, even if you’re cringing and wondering where they even got the idea for a haircut like that.
I know some people may take this with skepticism, or reject it altogether, on the grounds that I’m not a parent. But I don’t need to be to know the truth of all of this. I was a child, and now I’m a grown-up who usually has the confidence and support I need to succeed and be happy, mostly because of my mother.
So just hear me out: please let your kids be embarrassing. Thanks.
My only rules are clean clothes, weather appropriate, and that’s about it. Bodily autonomy is so flipping important for kids, just let them make those choices. It’s “hard” because you know other kids can be jerks but it’s easy because they’re learning to be responsible for their choices. It’s also a massive confidence booster in other areas.