The ‘awkward teenage phase’ is a universal phenomenon. All of a sudden you don’t recognize that person in the mirror!
Feeling uncomfortable in your own body, navigating your first crushes… The only silver lining to such a personal yet common experience is that it will likely lead you to discover your authentic self. You grow through what you go through, right?
DreamWorks’ Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken encapsulates this special part in our life journeys in a magical yet relatable way.
Societal Expectations and Hiding Behind a Mask
Often, the way we conduct ourselves is subconsciously affected by societal expectations of what is considered “being normal”. While this may result in helpful norms such as social etiquette and good manners, we find ourselves trapped. When we give in to our incessant need to fit in, we tend to put on a facade every time we step outside.
Without realizing it, we may eventually lose sight of who we are. That’s the Looking Glass Self that we end up getting trapped in. That’s when our imagined views of what others think about us becomes what we think of ourselves!
Ruby demonstrates this struggle by forcefully suppressing her kraken (mythical sea creature) side, wanting to appear ordinary, to fit in.
Embracing Your Individuality
It is human (and kraken) to want to belong. Though that is not a bad thing, when we feel pressured to suppress certain behaviors or hobbies just to achieve that, the line between ‘you’ and ‘the others’ starts to blur.
This, in turn, may lower one’s self-esteem and warp one’s self-perception.
“Am I truly likeable? Are they only my friends because of all the walls I put up?”
It is definitely more difficult to stay true to yourself when you’re surrounded by social influences. As you find that what you like, or dislike becomes dictated to you by social media or TikTok trends.
Challenge Your Biases
The pressure to fit in derives from our own biases of what we perceive as “acceptable” and popular.
Ruby Gillman Teenage Kraken challenges biases in the mythical creature world. Typically, mermaids are seen as beautiful creatures with angelic voices while krakens are viewed as sinister, ship-wrecking monsters.
Though admired by the students of Oceanside High, the mermaid character Chelsea Van Der Zee is revealed to be a snobbish, power-hungry evil doer. Meanwhile, krakens are powerful protectors of the deep.
How do we Honour our Special Qualities?
All of us have traits that make us special and unique.
If we were all carbon-copies of the Chelseas of the world, we would miss out on the self-fulfilment of being a Ruby. Ruby wanted to feel ‘normal’ in her High School before realizing that she has a much more exciting destiny to uphold. Accepting this led to the biggest transformation of her life.
There is beauty in differences. But our attitudes toward these special qualities often lead us to feel displaced rather than proud.
Thankfully, the road to self-acceptance isn’t a lonely one.
Though it took some time to find them, there were innate strengths that Ruby learned to tap into. She gradually honed these skills with some guidance from her grandmother. Grandma Gillman taught Ruby to recognize, honor and utilize her special qualities.
Similarly, nourishing one’s individuality can help one grow into your own skin and thrive through your personal strengths.
If we embrace our individuality consistently, it takes us closer to feeling “at home” with ourselves. Self-awareness is the key to knowing what we are really like and who we are. It helps us to be comfortable in our own skin and helps us to find a genuine sense of belonging with people who accept us for all that we are.