Imagine you attend a personal growth training workshop for new managers. You greet a number of the delegates in the morning as the group hovers around the coffee machine before breakfast. One person catches your eye, as she seems out of place in the professionally groomed group. Her hair is mussed as if she has forgotten to brush it that morning and the collar of her shirt sticks up on one side. She seems to be avoiding eye contact as she balances coffee precariously in one hand and a chocolate muffin in another. You say a quick hello to her as you pass by and are surprised when her closed impassive face lights into a brilliant smile that changes her features. Over the course of the day you get to know her a bit more and you find she is a doting mother of two toddlers and has a psychology degree. You exchange contact details.
In the months to come you get to know more about her and you find out she has lived through some horrific childhood experiences, but has emerged a victor who does not give up no matter the trials she now faces. She wryly tells you that when one has lived through all she has lived through, experiencing heartache and abuse and the loss of loved ones, everything else she seems to face now face pales by comparison.
It saddens you though when you take your new friend with you to business breakfasts, as the professionals you meet tend to ignore her on first meeting, until they get to know more about her. You have learnt to quickly stammer out an introduction and to mention her degree and she is accepted more readily.
Then at one particular gathering you notice your friend standing alone in a corner with tears in her eyes. You gently ask her what's wrong. She sighs and says sometimes life does get her down and it's usually not the situation, but sometimes it hurts feeling judged. She has learnt she sticks out as different from others, and that people seem to intuitively know she could do with more personal growth work and often suggest she should change her mannerisms, or even her hair. But you know, she sniffs, never once do they ask about the journey I have already walked. If they knew where I came from, perhaps they would be more understanding of who I am and why I react as I do. I have probably worked on my own personal growth tens of times more than they have, yet they still find me lacking. I will never be able to reach their standards of perfection.
Just be yourself you murmur, feeling her pain. You are beautiful as you are.
I'm so glad I met you, she says and she beams her brilliant smile through eyes red from tears.