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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Sonoma chapter.

Growing up my mom would smack my leg and tell me to stop, in order to remind me that “it’s not lady-like” when I shake my leg or foot incessantly. I’m sure most of our parents taught us that it is a bad habit. However, good or bad we all know “it’s just a habit” that so many of us do without even thinking. We tap our foot, jog our leg, pitter patter our fingers and just fidget all over. Some of us can’t sit still even for a moment without doing it, and for some it’s only every so often. This little jumpy habit is often our brain coping and simply doing what it needs to do in order to concentrate. Repetitive motion often calms the active parts of our brain and make it easier for us to focus on whatever we are doing. Shaking one’s foot or leg is also for the release of extra energy, and or a manifestation of stress or anxiety. Again, our brain is trying to cope with our lives both consciously and unconsciously all the time; a little fidget is just one form of it. If it helps us focus, it helps us be more successful at whatever we are doing. We focus in order to function at being our very own genius, whether it be school work, reading a great book, writing a masterpiece, playing a masterpiece, drawing one, getting through an elaborate math problem or configuring out an intricate science experiment, our leg twitch helps us geniuses do our thing.

Most of what’s been said probably makes sense. We jog our leg because it’s the white noise to our brains. Most people wouldn’t argue with this and lots of science upholds the validity of fidgeting as coping and other mental activities. The issue is how society views the fidgeting, and how by trying to kill the necessary habit, we are killing people’s genius.

There is a societal standard of acceptable behavior and shaking one’s leg, sucking one’s thumb, carrying a stuffed animal or stress ball, clicking a pen, taking breaks mid session and checking one’s pulse, are all little coping behaviors that are frowned upon. We tell children to knock it off, get over it, and grow out of it. We take away the toys, slap away the hands, smack the leg and just look at people like weird aliens when they have to tap their foot incessantly. We look at them pumping their fingers on the desk and wonder “what’s wrong with them? Why can’t they sit still?” And we ourselves are self conscious when we desire to or exhibit one of these behaviors.

As I walk around my daily life, I have a rule. When I see someone sing and or dance in public, I look away. I do this because I admire them; they are bringing me joy, and I am happy to see someone so self confident and unafraid to act uncivil in public. If they see someone looking at them, they will mostly likely stop. As many of us do when we see people staring at us because we become self conscious. What if we didn’t? What if there was not this stigma against these sort of natural, helpful, and often happy coping behaviors? I suppose people may act more authentically, help themselves focus better, and be overall happier.

Society has started to head in this direction of reshaping what it means to be successful. Classrooms are shifting to make it less important for students to know every answer and get them 100% correct, and make it more important to attempt tasks, asks questions, and use failure as a positive tool. This shift is called the “growth mindset”. We are heading away from what is referred to as a “fixed mindset”. Before, a student may not ask a question in class in fear of sounding dumb because our society has set the tone and expectation that one asks a questions because they aren’t as smart as those who don’t. The student is pressured out of asking the question which costs them their own education. However, with the growth mindset, the classroom sets a tone of acceptance and self confidence, and allows the student to ask a question because the individual’s education is the priority. We are beginning to see that students asking a question doesn’t make them appear dumb, but as taking charge of their own education and having the self confidence to do so. This shift needs to be extended to our physical coping mechanisms as well.

We are currently stunting growth by taking away some of the tools for success. Tapping a leg or foot, dancing fingers and spinning pens are all coping tools that keep the brain on track or occupied which helps focus the mind. Especially if the individual has conditions such as anxiety, exhibit the physical symptoms of turrets, have ADHD, and or simply has a little extra energy. Instead of viewing these tools as unacceptable social habits, they should be seen as an individual’s success habit; just like asking the question in class. We all feel shrunk by society’s pressure to sound and act right, and it often costs us ourselves. Freeing up these habits allows us all to be more successful at being our genius selves. So if you see someone tapping their fingers, or shaking their leg, there isn’t anything wrong with them, they’re succeeding. They are doing what their brain needs to do to focus their genius. We are all coping inside, whether we know it or not. Help your brain along and give it a little outlet if it needs it. It’s okay to bring a stress ball, shrug your shoulders, and tap your foot. The only person you’re hurting is you when you deny your brain what it needs to focus. It’s time we reshape our view of a successful person and I am fidgeting to do just that. I’m my best genius when my foot goes to town and I’m not ashamed of what helps me focus my genius. What are you doing to focus yours?

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I'm Rebecca DeMent(she/her/they/them), a Buddhist Catholic vegan ecofeminst, and I am a junior at Sonoma State University studying Philosophy in the Pre-Law concentration with a minor in Business. 
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