Archetypes and Deciding Who We Are
It all started with The Babysitters’ Club for me. This was the broadest and most obvious group of archetypal girls that every reader could likely relate to in one way or another, or at the very least, try to relate to. I’m sure there was a quiz that you could take in Teen or YM magazines back then to tell you which Babysitters’ Club member you were.
- Were you Stacey, the trendsetter?
- Were you Claudia, the artist?
- Were you Kristy, the sporty one?
- Were you Mary Anne, the shy one?
- Were you Dawn, the California girl?
- Were you Jessi, the dancer?
- Or were you Mallory, the bookworm?
And maybe you weren’t really any of them, but you wanted to become one. Maybe you tried to emulate Claudia’s funky style and throw some paint on a canvas. Or perhaps you danced or played sports so you identified with Jessi or Kristy.
You may have read my piece about the struggle with my niece over dying her hair. Recently, she told me she was excited for this summer because before high school she was planning to get all new clothes and have a new style that was going to be amazing. She didn’t actually know yet what that style would be, except that it would be new and it would be amazing. Similarly, my son started a new school, and every time I ask him to tell me about a new friend, he replies by telling me what kind of shoes this kid wears. It’s either Vans or Jordans, and my kid is honestly struggling over which camp he is in. I am struggling to keep up the shoe budget to pay for either, honestly, but that’s another story.
Deciding who we are and how we represent our outside to advertise what we are (or what we want to be seen as) is an ongoing struggle. It’s the same struggle we had identifying with Dawn or Claudia, but now the decisions are rolled into Buzzfeed quizzes and TikTok stars. It’s a struggle, but it’s also excitement. But to reinvent ourselves or decide how we want to portray ourselves can be fun and motivating.
And aren’t we all doing it still, really? Do we not, as mothers, sometimes consider, “Am I a PTA mom?” or, “Maybe if I buy these brand of athletic wear I could be like one of those yoga moms” or maybe we are just plain “working mom” (whatever that means), or maybe we are really trying to fake it till we make it #bossbabe-mom status. The thing is, we teach our kids that what matters is who you are on the inside, but it is also true that what we show on the outside does influence how people perceive us. It arguably does matter. If we dress sloppy and look sloppy maybe our teachers won’t think we care. If we dress inappropriately for an occasion we will stand out and people may not think we are being respectful or considerate of the event.
Who We are – It’s Neither Singular Nor Static
Pursuing a goal guided by an archetype, as simplistic as it seems, might be okay! When the archetypes are aspirational and positive, and when we are sure to understand that the goal may be one-dimensional and every person has many layers and elements to their own personality and style, it can be a great thing. I think The Babysitters’ Club actually did an amazing job showing that too (the books I read and the new series on Netflix as well), because each of those girls was not just the one archetype.
- Stacey was the New York fashionista, but she was also super smart (especially with math) and proud of it. You don’t have to act stupid to be trendy.
- Claudia was an artist but she was also obsessed with candy and had a really special connection with her grandmother and her culture.
- Kristy was sporty, but also a great leader and a great friend.
I love that these elements prove that just because you are one thing, that doesn’t preclude you from being another. Being more than one oversimplified archetype buys you a larger and more diverse group of peers across interests, and I think that leads to so much life satisfaction. This is something I brought up as my niece and her BFF signed up for their high school courses.
Yes, you can do Cheer and take Auto!
Yep, you can take Honors English and do sports.
Yes, you can do all of that while wearing whatever amazing style clothes you came up with over the summer.
It’s the same for our boys. My son is an amazing dancer, and he (somewhat secretly) absolutely loves hip hop dance. Still, he’s a little embarrassed of it. Dance isn’t just for girls or famous R&B singers or TikTok. You can play basketball and do hip hop. You can wear Jordans and Vans. Be proud of things you like and are good at. These activities give you multiple groups of friends and insights across so much more than being defined by one thing.
Being one thing is boring, let’s teach our kids to embrace all the things they are and all the things they are inspired to be.