Why is fitting in so important to us young people? We buy brands, cut our hair, listen to music, change the way we speak … all in order to fit in, to find acceptance.
“Why fit in, when you were born to stand out?”
– What a Girl Wants
Acceptance is a core desire for us as human beings, but sometimes we sacrifice being who we truly are in order to follow the crowd. Have you ever done something you didn’t really want to do, just because you were afraid of judgement from others, or that you would be left out? There have been times in high school and university when I was left out because of choosing differently to my peers. For example, on some sunny days they would invite me to join them in ditching class to go to the beach. I could have gone to make them happy, and yes the beach would have been fun, but when I looked at the bigger picture, I decided that going to class (and therefore my education) was more important to me and my future.
It is important to do things for the right reasons. If you decide to be a hairdresser because you love hair and want to make people feel beautiful, go for it! But don’t be a hairdresser because someone told you that you were dumb and could never get the marine biologist job that you wanted. It is easy to count ourselves out of the race before we’ve even reached the starting blocks. Can you imagine the regret of reaching the end of your life and looking back wondering if you could have lived a better life, if only you had pursued your dreams?
So what is stopping you from doing what you want to do? Is it fear, a mean or discouraging comment, a lack of self-confidence, a desire to fit in or have people think you’re cool? Whether it’s a career path, a fashion choice, a hobby you take up, or a friend you make, there is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, someone who has a negative opinion about it. You know why I never read the comments on YouTube or viral Facebook posts? Because I’m bound to read something that will make me either sick or depressed. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life, and neither do you.
If your friends are going to judge you or leave you out because of a choice you make that you feel is right for you, then they don’t really sound like true friends. While you may have people look at you funny, or misunderstand you sometimes, isn’t that better than living your whole life as somebody else? Peer pressure is a real thing—we’ve all felt it—but it doesn’t have to be the thing that defines us.
Being yourself requires bravery, especially when you’re young. It’s healthy to step outside of your comfort zone and push the boundaries of ‘normal’. What is normal anyway? If it’s the opposite of unique and interesting, then I don’t want to be it. If you want to be able to care less what other people think, you have to be confident and comfortable in who you are. To be a truly confident, secure person, you cannot hate any part of yourself.
Instead of being a sheep that follows the crowd, you could be a leader who creates a better environment for the people around you. You may not realise it, but you—your words and your actions—have the power to affect people around you. What do you see in the world that upsets you? What are you going to do to change it?
For example, you might think the world lacks kindness. In your daily life, you can spread kindness to the people you come into contact with. Smile at people you pass on the street, ask the person at the checkout how their day was, volunteer your time at a retirement home. You may say to yourself, “But I am just one person. What difference can it make?”
Never underestimate the power of your efforts. You can’t change the whole world by yourself, but if you be yourself and reach out in love to others, you can change their whole world.
Life is full of opportunities. Sometimes a door opens at exactly the right time and you happen to be the one standing next to it. If it’s a good opportunity, take it before the door closes, or someone else will. Seize the day! Not much of value in this world is easily or quickly attained. Getting an education, having fulfilling relationships, becoming an Olympian or building a successful career or business—none of these happen overnight but all have incredible value. If we don’t do anything that requires effort, our lives will be a string of meaningless nothings. Sometimes we have to overlook the short term pain for the long term pay off. Success doesn’t come from raw talent or genius, but from hard work, patience, and a willingness to try again after failure. Life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. If you think you’ve failed, it just means you haven’t finished the race.
“You is kind.
You is smart.
You is important.”
- The Help
(Teen Talk’s in-house blogger)
Images (sourced 2 November 2017):