This is an article I wrote in 2006 and I think of it each year as my girls start to talk about who they want to be this Halloween. This year, we had a witch, an ice princess with our son as a giraffe and the puppy as a little devil! Enjoy!
As the mother of two daughters (7 and 4), I’ve loved watching the evolution of their choice of Halloween costumes. For the first year or so, they had no choice and I’m horrified by the “cute” costumes we subject our babies to! I think that we’ve pretty much covered all the Disney princesses and I daren’t calculate how much money I’ve spent in Disney Stores over the years. I’m always the mother in the Disney Store on October 29th with the anxious look on her face as I’m neither organized enough to buy a costume when the sales are on nor creative enough to make costumes for the girls myself.
Each year in September, the question starts looming – “who DO you want to be for Halloween?”. The answer will be determined by whatever movie or TV show or book has influenced your child most that year.
It made me wonder who we, as grown women, would choose to be if we had one day a year to dress up as the character who had inspired us or influenced us most that year. As I was mulling over the idea for this article – while unloading the dishwasher – my seven year old walked into the kitchen wearing the red wig from her Little Mermaid costume, a pink boa from a dance costume, the dress from her Cinderella costume, shoes from Snow White and makeup from her rock star costume.
The result was something uniquely her. Yes, she’d brought together elements from many characters but the final result was something quite unique (although I did get a fleeting vision of Cyndi Lauper in her early days!).
She no longer looked like a cookie-cutter princess, available (at a price) from any Disney store. She brought all these different looks together to create something with her unique mark on it.
In that moment, my daughter taught me some valuable lessons about living your best life…
In our own self-development, it can be helpful to look to role models, to individuals who inspire us. We can emulate them without copying them and, in emulating them, can uncover something that is uniquely us.
We’re never done. We continue to unfold as individuals and develop from the moment we are born until the moment we die. Year by year, we continue to be influenced and inspired by the people we meet, books we read, activities we undertake if we open ourselves to those experiences.
In Oprah’s “What I Know for Sure” column in July 2006, she talks about a character in a book she is reading:
“I not only feel I know this person but I also recognize more of myself.”
The more we open ourselves to new experiences, the more our horizons are broadened and the more our own lives can expand.
The characters or experiences that inspired you two years or two decades ago create stepping stones to new experiences or individuals that will inspire you this year or next. Sometimes, it is essential to experience one thing before you are ready to experience another. Or, one person introduces you to another. For example, my interest in Oprah was so strong that I not only watched her show but subscribed to her magazine. It was the Oprah magazine that introduced me to the writing of Martha Beck which ultimately led to a whole new career as a life coach. I honestly don’t think I would have “stumbled across” Martha Beck had it not been for my interest in Oprah.
For the most part, girls’ Halloween costumes convey very one-dimensional images of womanhood:
– rock stars
Just like the girls in the Halloween parade, too many of us are playing it safe to fit in rather than show our real depth and the boldness of our unique personality. We present one facet of ourselves rather than expressing how multi-faceted we truly are as women. We think that if we are lawyers, we have to dress like lawyers and behave like lawyers whatever that might mean. Rather than dressing and behaving like the multi-layered and fabulous women that we are … who happen to be lawyers (or whatever other career we have chosen).
Our multi-dimensional self is where the magic lies. We all get so caught up in being great mothers, wives, daughters, professionals that we lose sight of the person that brings all those roles together. We lose sight of simply being the best “individual” that we can be.
Don’t let your mother choose your Halloween costume for you and equally don’t let her decide who or what you’re going to be in life!
I feel really bad for babies in Halloween costumes. I mean, does anyone really aspire to be a ladybug?
In the same vein, don’t just follow in your older sibling’s footsteps either. For the past two years, our younger daughter has simply “chosen” to be what her big sister has been so we had two witches one year and two rock stars last year. I’m excited for the year when she confidently proclaims what she wants to be without waiting to hear her big sister’s choice first.
As the younger of two sisters myself, I can see how easy it is to follow in your older sibling’s footsteps rather than carving out your own unique way in life. As a mother, I’m conscious to do whatever I can to give my younger children the confidence and self awareness to find the life that is right for them.
You may be surprised by what your choice of Halloween character might reveal. When I asked myself who I wanted to be for Halloween, the names “Bette Midler” and “Oprah Winfrey” popped into my head.
If you could blend the qualities of these two individuals, the result would be a great representation of what I want to do in my coaching career. I would love to help mothers to live their best lives (a la Oprah) and to do so in a larger than life, hugely entertaining way (a la Bette Midler). At the same time, the bringing together of the characteristics that I so admire in those two women is the unique magic that I bring to the table. It’s what brings “Stand Up, Mama!” to life. It’s the same way that my daughter achieved something unique when she “threw together” the aspects from the characters she loved most.
Now, where is that red Little Mermaid wig?