Be Proud, We're All Just A Bunch of Baby Cuckoo Birds

By, Michele Zehr

Felted Toy Mosters with Flower

My entire life I have received this message, “You’re too much, your energy is too big.” In fact, I was recently hiking with a group of women and one of them told me she questioned whether she should “friend” me on Facebook because she found me intimidating. Another woman agreed saying, “Me too, it’s your energy, but we love you now that we know you.” I am always completely shocked when I hear this because, frankly, I feel like a hot mess most of the time and can’t imagine what “story” people are telling themselves about who they think I am if they find me this intimidating. At the same time, I unapologetically own the fact that yes, I am a powerful woman and I love this about myself, but I am also a complete dork (you have no idea) and I love this about myself, too. I am not a woman who uses that power to bully, manipulate, or abuse others, which is the shadow side of powerful people, and there is no shortage of examples of this kind of powerful person in the world right now. Instead, I choose (because it is always a choice) to harness my power to inspire and encourage others to truly own their power, but the overall message women like me receive from society is “you need to make yourself smaller so that other people will not feel uncomfortable around you.”

Living in a culture where it is acceptable to tell women—especially little girls—that they are “too much” is perhaps one of the greatest betrayals of our time. The legacy these words have left in their wake shows up in generations of women and girls who develop the unwavering belief that in order to be accepted and worthy of love, you must be someone other than who you actually are. It is the genesis of co-dependency, people pleasing, and that feeling of being invisible that so many women experience. I have a hunch that more than a few of you reading this right now, including men, have heard this message, too—perhaps in a different context such as, “you need to man up” (a.k.a. “you’re too feminine”). It’s still the same disempowering message that “who you were born as is just plain wrong.”

As always, I turn to Mother Nature for wisdom on this issue and I’ve decided we’re all just a bunch of baby cuckoo birds. Some insects, fish and birds are considered brood parasites, which means they rely on other animals to raise their young. A few species of cuckoo birds in North America will lay an egg in another bird’s nest so the energy to raise their young falls onto the little birdy shoulders of the clueless surrogate mama bird who is already trying to care for her own babies. In nature, energy conservation is every living organism’s prime directive as no animal actually knows if or when it will find its next meal. In some ways, this is a brilliant strategy by the cuckoo bird to ensure their own survival and the survival of their young. Let others spend their energy caring for your offspring!  

I do wonder after the baby cuckoo bird hatches, does it ever look around and have this moment like, “Hmm, this is odd. I seem to be three times bigger than everyone else in the nest and I’m a completely different color. Why am I different?” Baby cuckoo birds do not have any more choice in who raises them than we do when we come into this world. We hope we are welcomed into a safe, nurturing, loving space where we get all the validation we need that “who we are is perfect and totally ok.” And when it comes to celebrating Pride, I know the historical roots of this celebration were first anchored by painful messages that said otherwise, messages such as: You are mentally ill. You are going to hell. You are disgusting. You need to fix yourself. You are an embarrassment. You are no longer part of this family. Or the one I heard the night before I left for Parris Island to begin Marine Corps boot camp, “You need to go see a Catholic priest so you can get yourself straightened out. You’ve broken your mother’s heart.”  

After I hatched and decided to look around the nest for the first time, I realized I might not be like the rest of my family. Instead, I was attracted to women in every way possible even though I, too, was a woman. It was such an enormous relief to finally question. Like magic, the previous 22 years of my life suddenly made sense for the first time.  I was just a baby cuckoo bird who ended up in the nest with other people who were different than I am. They did their best and I am grateful for my family, but there’s nothing like the day when you jump out of the nest for the first time and suddenly run into a whole bunch of other cuckoo birds like you! I think that is the power of Pride, that we get to be around “people like us.”

But even beyond Pride, there are still cultural messages that we must begin to question and change. I wonder, what parts of yourself do you still exile because you’ve not yet run into all the other cuckoo birds? What other beautiful gifts are you keeping from the world because you’ve been taught that you should “make yourself small” so that others will feel comfortable around you? If you’re celebrating Pride for the first time or the 30th time, take a moment to dig a little deeper and see what else within you might still want to be reclaimed so that it, too, can inspire you to feel proud of who you are in your totality.

After all, in the history of the Universe—in other words, since the beginning of whatever “existence is”—you have to remember there never has been, there currently isn’t, and there will never be another human being exactly like you. So, in essence, we’re all just a bunch of baby cuckoo birds. This gives all of us permission to both “belong in our community” because we’re completely unique and, at the same time, “stand out as an individual” as we express our power and gifts as only we can because we’re completely unique. Gotta love paradoxes. Happy Pride Virginia!   

Michele Zehr, M.A., M.Ed., is the founder of We2 LLC: Women’s Experiential Empowerment and the Center for Earth-Based Healing, a 501(c)3 non-profit. She custom-designs and facilitates empowerment workshops for a wide-range of professionals, teaches R.A.D. Self-Defense for Women and, through her non-profit, offers nature-based programs for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. To learn more about Michele’s other services, please visit her websites at: and, or contact her via email at: or by phone at 434-218-2462.