Pink has always been my favourite colour. But for decades, paradoxically, it wasn’t. At some point in my childhood, I chose a different one. At the time, I didn’t realise any of the significance of what was happening. I just thought to myself, ‘Okay, people seem to have a favourite colour, so mine is red.’ It was only much later – 30 years later – that I fully reclaimed my true colour. This post is the story of how the innocence of a simple colour became the basis for a stifling injunction. It is also highlights how our treatment (good or bad) of each other can have staggering effects.
I can only piece together the facts of my early years: a memory of a pink alarm clock; the family’s reassurance that I wanted everything to be pink; and the story of a tantrum I threw because I was not allowed to have a pink coat. Fast forward a few years and I could be found choosing red as my favourite colour. People seemed to have one and I didn’t. Red was the colour of my football team, and is a fairly easy and popular (and dare I say, safe) choice to make. What’s interesting is that, pink had not even registered. It was as though the intensity of my early connection to the colour had been wiped clean.
This is a powerful insight, (which arose during the writing of the post, Exactly Who I Am), and yet all we are talking about is a colour. A colour. Nothing else. Just a child’s choice of colour. But it wasn’t a choice. It was who I was. I identified with it, and strongly too. It was an expression of something deeper. Unfortunately, it was a colour which, even in the freedom of the late 60s and early 70s, was unacceptable for a boy to like. And so was born the injunction I never even realised I carried with me: You’re not allowed to be who you are! Or more powerfully: Don’t be who you are!
I’m speculating when I say that those around me – the people responsible for my well-being – probably thought I’d grow out of it. Maybe they even hoped I would. It’s possible they actively encouraged me to grow out of it, or even forced me in some well-meaning way (hence the tantrum). But I never grew out of it, I just buried it. And for thirty years I buried a part of myself along with it.
What a difference it would have made had I been able to express myself to my fullest; to believe that I could be whoever I wanted to be; that I had the permission to exist exactly how I was and who I was. And what a difference it would have made had those people, instead of limiting me and feeling ashamed on my behalf (again, speculation), had allowed me, guided me, inspired me, and wished for me that I could tap into my greatest potential as a human being.
It sounds a little exaggerated to link a little boy’s favourite colour with the restriction of self, but that is my point here. It is that simple. In the same way we create our life tomorrow by how we think today, so we play a part in the creation of each other by how we behave towards one other. When you tell someone – no matter how you impart that message – that they are not allowed to be who they are, you limit their beauty. You restrict their potential. You prompt them to doubt themselves in all other areas. At the same time, when you accept that person in front of you, when you see their full beauty and allow it to be, and you connect with the same beauty in yourself, the whole world smiles.