A few words about being asked to step outside our comfort zone a little, when we don’t really want to.

Hello, and welcome to the little spot on the site where we chunter about – as the title suggests – things to do with mental health and wellbeing. No miracle solutions to anything are offered, but the idea is we chat about things, and hopefully over the course of this series, there’s something in there that’s of use to you.

This time, a little natter about going against the grain a bit. I think many of us, at school, used to dread the non-uniform day. As boring and dull as a school uniform was, it was at least some kind of armour against bullies and attention for those of us not particularly fashion inclined. Non-uniform day would then come along, and you’d be asked to fork over a quid for the pleasure of having said bullies rip the shit out of what you were wearing for the day. It might have raised a few quid, but for many of us, memories are not fond.

When I left school, it was something I was happy to leave behind, but inevitably, the whole idea finds a different way to follow you around. It might be a fancy dress office Christmas party (top tip: go as a serial killer, and wear your normal clothes), or choosing to wear some kind of face covering (this isn’t an article going down that road), or having to wear some kind of dressing for an injury. Anything that prescribes you have to leave what’s deemed normality for a bit. Something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone, and draws attention.

This is absolutely not where it’s a personal choice. That’s different. Rather, the idea of some forced joviality or a change in appearance that you’re not comfortable with. For many, myself included, clothes are not to try and win me a fashion prize. I’ve always struggled with fashion magazines and such like, because I’ve seen too much of the bullying involved in how someone dresses, and not enough of the celebration or acceptance. I do see signs of that changing, but perhaps too late for a boring old nerd like me.

Furthermore, I’m sincerely hoping that the way the world has gone over the last year or two might make things a little easier. Yet I’m not naïve. I know the bully count in the world is likely to still be around the same, but I would say this: your clothes are your choice. Your look is your choice. How you choose to present yourself is your choice.

If you’re being pushed into whatever your equivalent of a non-uniform day is, do it on your terms, or don’t do it at all. It’s no perfect solution, but I’ve long concluded better to be something you’re comfortable with than not. Easier to write down than do, granted, but for those of us happy to blend in rather than stand out, it feels the best of the limited options out there.

As always, you all take care of yourselves, and stay safe. This column will return, as it does pretty much every week, next Wednesday.

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