We hear it from the time draw near self awareness – “don’t be something you’re not.” If you don’t want to spend your teenage years at the mall applying glitter lip gloss and prank calling cute boys – don’t – you don’t have to buy into “popular.” If you don’t get into spending your evenings running and lifting weights – don’t – you don’t have to be an athlete. If you don’t want to go to the parties and always be surrounded by a crowd – don’t – you don’t have to have the same notion of fun that your peers do.
For what it’s worth, these particular instances are fine. You don’t have to do those things to be a happy or well rounded individual. But we’re not consistently being told to do our own thing, we’re being told that we don’t have to try to be what we are not.
And there is a huge problem with that.
What is life about if not growth and development? It is stagnation. At the end of the day what is being drilled into our heads from childhood is that we don’t have to change. They’re trying to tell us we don’t have to fit a mold, but what we’ve learned is not to change.
Personally, I want to change. There are a lot of things I want to be, that I am not. And that isn’t bad. I’m not trying to fit a mold and be what someone else expects of me – I’m trying to be the greatest that I can be. And I think there are a lot of things which fall into that category.
Don’t try to be something you’re not?
I’m not fit. I’m not healthy. I’m not self sufficient, or financially secure. I’m not someone with a career or a family, or an inkling of what I want in either department. I’m not fully educated. Most of the time I’m not even motivated. I’m not capable of going all the places I want to go.
Should I not try to change all that?
Those are all thing which I am not, and things which I want to be. So I think that it is crucial to change the way we speak this idea to children and young people. We cannot allow them to keep thinking we are telling them not to change. We need them to understand that growth is vital to survival and to happiness, and that what we are cautioning against is not development but monotony. What we must encourage is self motivation and direction and adaptability and variety.
How is it that we so often fail to impart the ideas we are striving to, and instead condone entirely different ideas, simply through the accident of semantics?