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by Dayna Mason

Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to be something we’re not. We have our reasons—to fit in, to build business relationships, to win friends and influence people, to avoid scrutiny … to appear “cool.” But the quickest path to true coolness is to quit focusing on being cool. 

What is cool?

The usage of the word cool to express general cultural approval became popular in the 1940s with the Cool Jazz era, highlighted by an understated and subdued feeling in the music of that time.

An investigative study conducted in 2012 suggests that “Whether a person described cool as self-assured, confident, or comfortable in their own skin, the underlying gist revolved around confidence and attractiveness (pro-social values, friendliness, personal competence, and unconventionality).” To the surprise of the researchers, they didn’t receive many descriptions of traditional cool characteristics such as rebelliousness, irony, and detachment. Sorry, James Dean.

The real cool kids are self-actualized. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is the highest level of psychological development, where personal potential is fully realized after basic bodily and ego needs have been fulfilled. The self-actualized are autonomous—not dependent on other people or culture, for their satisfaction and growth.

The real cool kids aren’t trying to be cool. They know who they are, and they aren’t seeking other people’s approval. 

“If you’ve gotta think about being cool, you ain’t cool.” – Keith Richards

Insecurity is not cool

By society’s standards, I’m supremely uncool. I love math, science, opera, reality TV, and I have no fashion sense (nor do I care about fashion). As a teenager I spent much of my time attempting to be “cool.” I mimicked the dress and lingo of those I wanted to fit in with. All my attempts at “coolness” were rooted in insecurity and made me anything but cool (tried to lighten my dark brown hair in middle school when everyone was using “Sun-in” to give their hair that sun-kissed blond look and my hair turned orange). As I’ve moved into the second half-century of life, I’ve let go of my need to fit in and be cool, partly due to wisdom, and mostly due to reality. (It gets progressively difficult to pull off that mini skirt from Forever 21 with legs that well, don’t look “21”). I no longer lead with insecurity, but with confidence.

When we find ourselves editing any part of our story, we are giving away our power. We are essentially saying to the world, “Your validation is more important than who I truly am.” Besides, no matter how hard we try to hide our perceived imperfections, our insecurity is transparent. In our attempt to be cool, we are supremely uncool, and everyone knows it.

Risk looking uncool to truly be cool

When we share our story honestly, when we share our genuine selves, we not only let our coolness shine, we empower others to do likewise. Authenticity is transformative. Putting ourselves out there no matter how uncool it feels is the only real way to truly be cool. 

So, let’s set aside the hierarchy of consensus and conformity and appreciate things for being awesome because they are awesome to us. Try new things at the risk of looking foolish. Be vulnerable. True self-acceptance means we present to the world all our glorious uncool qualities. Because that is who we authentically are. 

Clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Gurner says, “A cool person is someone whose attitude and behaviors are composed but seen as uniquely their own. People are genuinely drawn to cool people because they see them as a representation of who they wish to be — confident in who they are.”

It’s exhausting trying to be something we aren’t anyway. Let’s risk looking uncool, embrace our magnificent imperfection, be uniquely who we are, and realize actual coolness. 

In the words of Calvin & Hobbes, “What fun is it being cool if you can’t wear a sombrero?” 

Right? So, rock that sombrero!


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Dayna Mason

Dayna Mason is a Bestselling Author and Freelance Writer. Enthusiastic seeker of truth, appreciative of extravagant love and fascinated by the outcomes of creative minds.