Social Courage

I got a text from my daughter the other day that said, “I’m frustrated!”

It was Homecoming Week at the high school and the students were supposed to dress up every day. Monday was Heber Hillbilly day. Elle wore overalls, two braids, a bandana, and modified cowboy boots. She showed school spirit, but she also looked cute.

According to Elle, hardly anybody else had dressed up, and she was upset by the lack of school spirit. Hence the emotional text.

Her experience and our conversation that day reminded me of a blog post that I wrote a couple of years back but never posted. Since the “dress-up struggle” still continues, I thought I would finally post the draft.


It was Pajama Day at the Jr. High for Red Ribbon Week.

No big deal. Right?


I have apparently forgotten what it is like to be a teenager and actually care about what people think of me.

Elle was stewing the night before about what pajamas to wear, if any.

She was so worried no one else would wear pajamas.  According to her, she was the only one that wore red on Monday for “Wear Red Day.”

Her fears were fueled by Locke’s story that a kid in his class had worn pajamas on Monday when Pajama Day was actually Tuesday. He was the only one in the class in pajamas. We all felt terrible for little Angel.

(As I was snuggling by Crew before bed he said, “Why did you have to tell me that story about Angel. I can’t sleep.)

Elle fretted the night before and all morning about her pajama predicament.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Enthusiasm is a form of social courage.” (This is a quote from Gretchen Rubin.)

Elle: I don’t even know what that means.

Me:  It means it takes courage to participate. It is a lot less risky to not dress up for Halloween, to not sing around the camp fire, to not participate in a skit, etc. It is safer to not get excited about a movie, a book, a play, etc. You put yourself out there when you choose to embrace something or be excited about something. It means it takes courage to do something socially risky.

Elle: Silence (But her face said, “Why did I have to get a mom that thinks like this?)

Me: Do you want to wear pajamas to school?

Elle: Yes, but I’m worried no one else will.

Me: Be Stargirl (a reference to a past read-aloud)

Me: This is the perfect scenario to learn to make your decisions based on your own desires not on other people’s actions.

Then I went into a rant: And besides what if you are the only one wearing pajamas? What is the worst that could happen? Are they going to make fun of you for participating? For having school spirit? For being comfortable and cozy? For being warm? There is absolutely nothing they can make fun of you for.

I walked away and let Elle decide what she was going to do. This was a defining moment for her to decide what kind of person she wanted to be- one that plays it safe and cool or one that risks and participates.

She ended up wearing pajamas to school.

When she got home I asked her how it all went. As with many Jr. High dramas, it was all for not. She wasn’t the only one wearing pajamas.

But a good life lesson was learned that day.

Have social courage. Participate. Get down and dirty. Show excitement. Be psyched about a new movie, the latest book you read, a trendy diet or even that math class that everyone else loves to hate. Enthusiasm and effort are being overlooked in our society for cooler pursuits such as apathy, ease, criticism and “whatever.” Don’t be afraid to bear hug life.

Sure standing on the side-lines is safer, but it is not as fun.

Since this pajama day, Elle has had another opportunity to wear pajamas. The next time she went all out with her footie ones. I’m happy that she is learning to wear, be, and do what makes her happy, not what everyone else is doing.


Elle doesn’t stress as much about dressing up as she used to. She didn’t hesitate to wear hillbilly attire or Americana or school colors this year because that is who she wants to be. She still gets excited and participates even when she knows others won’t. And that takes social courage.





3 thoughts on “Social Courage”

  1. I’m so glad you posted this! Very timely. I tend to feel a lot of enthusiasm about things others don’t (Cub Scouts, ward choir, racquetball, etc.). And not so much about the things that others do (jogging, holiday traditions, super-nutritious eating, social media, etc.) I’d never thought about social courage as something to teach, but I’m pretty sure I will be quoting your post to my kids in the near future!

    1. Let’s play raquetball!! I will come down one Friday and we can play. Do you think you could get a babysitter?

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