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Let's be honest; this is a serious, deep, and fraught question. Since you are reading this post, there is a good chance that you have strong opinions surrounding this question. Maybe this is the first time you have ever stopped to really consider the concept of worthiness. Either way, don't go anywhere - stay with me. If you are a special needs parent, sibling, family member, or educator, you have considered the question of worthiness ad nauseum. You have had passionate, maybe even heated, conversations with people with no first-hand experience with the special needs community, which might not have ended well.

I got goosebumps when I read a February 2022 ROLLING STONE article by SHIRIN ETESSAM entitled: Why are our identities — and subsequently our self-worth — so wrapped up in what we do, produce and earn?

I'm pretty sure that Shirin never imagined she would be quoted on the Owtside The Box Blog. My hunch is that she was writing to the target demographic of Rolling Stone. 60% male and 40% female, mostly, but not exclusively, the under 35 crowd. But her musings on worthiness belong here just as much as they do in the hands of middle-of-the-road rock fans of all ages.

Enjoy the read - and shoot us an AMEN! if you agree.

A Call to Shift Our Perceptions

What would the world look like if worthiness was not attached to what one achieves? Here are just a few possibilities I see:

• People would be acknowledged and rewarded for their efforts — not judged by their professions or positions.

• Students would learn for learning's sake and not just to get the grade to get the degree to get the job, and so on.

• Conversations would most likely be warmer and more intimate. Instead of focusing on "what do you do?" people would start talking about the various facets of their lives.

• We would be more present. Time is the most valuable thing, and yet we feel guilty if we spend our time the way we want to. We always say "I'll be happy when I [fill in the blank]" and the sad thing is, we always move the goalpost anyway. If we knew and understood our worth, we would be out of the hamster wheel and living our lives the way we really want to.

• The world would experience an explosion of creativity from individuals who feel worthy. I know I do my best work when I feel the most confident. Self-worth as a birthright would allow people to share their talents, ideas and abilities with less self-judgment.

• Those labeled "couch potatoes" and "deadbeats" may feel inspired to create something or explore the world, unencumbered by expectations or misconceptions. They wouldn't be too anxious to make decisions because there would be fewer societal pressures on what an ideal life should look like.

• We'd get to enjoy a kinder and more peaceful planet. They say hurt people hurt people and that is very true. I also believe the opposite is true — healed people heal people.

There are many ways we can unlearn how we view worthiness and lean on a plethora of support for how to increase our intrinsic self-worth. But for now, maybe we can start with not equating it with what we achieve.

When I attended the Hoffman Process a few years ago, we were only allowed to use our first names or nicknames and could not mention what we did for a living. Just that simple act allowed us to relate as human beings and gave us the freedom to connect on a much deeper and richer level. Imagine relating to everyone in that manner.

Owning Our Worthiness

Owning our worthiness begins with choosing to live life from the inside out rather than the outside in. As long as you are chasing worthiness, it will never be enough. It's worth repeating — as long as you are chasing worthiness, it will never be enough.

As Brené Brown so aptly said: "When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible."

You can still be highly productive, creative and strive for all the worldly goods you desire but not in order to attain your worthiness. On the contrary, your worthiness as a birthright is your very unique secret sauce to living out loud.

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Updated: Aug 10, 2022

Anna Morente and Cara Armstrong - the co-founders of Owtside The Box with queen Lauren at the National Down Syndrome Congress in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Owtside The Box was born out of a love of Down Syndrome and fashion. Our youngest children, Josh and Mia, both rock an extra chromosome. Down syndrome is the result of three copies of the 21st chromosome and the most common genetic anomaly. (It occurs in about 1 in 700 births).

Over the years, we have attended countless events to raise money and awareness for our Down syndrome community. Our closets are full of event t-shirts that we wore once because they were uncomfortable and unflattering (to put it kindly). Nothing like looking like Spongebob Square Pants while fighting for equality!

We began envisioning a brand that made Down syndrome and disability awareness hip - (Millennial translation - dope, sick, or fire - you're welcome - we got you). What if awareness swag became fashionable, even among people outside the Down syndrome community? What if Josh and Mia could be co-creators of the brand? It sounded dreamy but believe me, we realize that de-stigmatizing Down syndrome is not for the faint of heart. Bullying and ignorance rear their ugly heads all too often in our community.

While launching a fashion brand seemed a bit daunting for two moms that work full-time, have six kids between them, and lose their keys three times a day, we took the plunge.

Owtside the Box was launched at the National Down Syndrome Congress in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2022. Anna single handedly hauled 100 pounds of OTB merch on a red-eye from Los Angeles, and I flew in from a business trip to Toronto, and we set up our pop up shop. Guess What??? People loved our story, but more than anything, they were obsessed with our merch! We returned home with empty suitcases and full hearts.

We are excited to embark on this journey and ask for your support. You can SHOP our site, FOLLOW us on Instagram @owtsidethebox, and most importantly, SPREAD THE WORD.

It's time to live, love, dream, and think Owtside the Box - Get the fit without fitting in.

Peace, Love, and Equality >>>

Anna and Cara

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Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Anna Morente - co-founder OTB

I have had many creative ideas over the years. I am an artist and creator at heart, a side-hustle aficionado, and the glue that holds my beautiful family together. When I have an idea, I am ALL in and work endlessly to make something a success. When Cara (the other 1/2 of OTB) floated the idea of creating an awareness apparel brand, I felt the urge to jump in like always, but something about this opportunity felt different - because it is so close to my heart. Uncharacteristically, I gave serious consideration to this project before taking the leap.

I am the mom of three amazing children. My youngest son Josh has Down syndrome. Josh was born not only with "designer genes" but with some complex medical challenges at birth. Just when my husband Joe and my children were adjusting to life with Josh (who we fell in love with at first glance) - Josh was diagnosed with leukemia at age two.

As you can see, today, Josh is a handsome and precocious 12-year-old. He is a fighter, a joker, and the light of our lives. Shouting Josh's worth and the worth of ALL people with differences has been a family affair. The support and love of our tribe have carried me through the rough patches that come with raising a child with unique and complex needs.

After thinking long and hard about taking on a small business endeavor in addition to working full-time as a middle school and college teacher, wife, mom, etc. I said a calculated YES. My "YES" was rooted in the desire for parents of special needs children to be able to shout their worth - in STYLE.

I want the world to understand that Josh is not a burden but an asset to the world, his family, and his community. Josh has taught us the true meaning of joy. Every parent should be able to communicate that joy with awareness apparel that reflects their pride, hopes, and dreams for their child.

I hope you feel joy as you wear one of our hats, t-shirts, or hoodies or give them as gifts. Every box is packed with love, and every box brings hope for a future that is inclusive and absent of bullying and stereotypes.

Maybe you have something in your life that you have been on the fence about executing. Robin Baker says it beautifully - Take the Leap. You won't regret it!

“You will receive your biggest blessings outside of your comfort zone. So get comfortable with constant change, feeling uneasy, and taking many calculated or random risks. Take a leap of faith.”

Robin S. Baker

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