Why It's OK to Be Different
"As long as you shop at Pink and act social, you'll fit in. Don’t worry." This was the advice I had been given upon entering high school. The day after freshman orientation, I went home and begged my mom for the most eye-catching new hoodies and some "cool" sweatpants so I could start high school as a popular girl. My mom had begrudgingly agreed, nevertheless cautioning me to stay true to myself. Easier said than done.
How could I possibly stay true to myself when everywhere I turned people were telling me who to be? People who I trusted and often confided in told me to "smile" and be nice to everyone, as this was my chance to start over and be popular. In middle school, I was rather bookish and timid; I had a small group of friends, and I adored them. But being popular would be fun, right?
What I was (embarrassingly) seeking going into high school was that "shy girl takes off her glasses and is suddenly drop dead gorgeous" moment. I arrived on my first day of school in an off-the-shoulder pink top and some ripped jeans shorts. Upon entering my first class, I noticed just about every girl was wearing the same outfit. Not that there is anything wrong with their choice in apparel. If it's you, then go for it. But it certainly wasn't me. As the weeks went on and I walked around in my "cool girl uniform" I began to become quite displeased with myself.
In hopes of fitting in, I had lost something very near and dear to me: My individuality. Where had it gone? I felt as if I was part of a cult – one wrong move and I would be banished to a life of social ostracization. Despite this gnawing fear constantly at the back of my mind, I made a deal with myself that I would stop being so concerned with everyone's opinion of me. I would be myself entirely, damn what anyone had to say on the matter.
No more spending hours in the mirror agonizing over what others deemed ideal for me. It was time to stop picking myself apart until I fit the cookie cutter mold that society had shaped. What really helped with this was disconnecting from social media for a while and focusing on my various passions. One of my greatest interests has always been reading, and I somehow stopped making time for it. After taking a break from staring at my phone, I began to make time for hobbies like reading.
While making my way through the novel, The Danish Girl (would highly recommend btw!), I noticed the chirping of the birds around me. All of the bird sounds were very distinct; as I paid closer attention, I noticed they were all chirping out different songs. This made me realize that even beings as simple as birds have an innate way of distinguishing themselves from one another.
So, why as incredibly complex human beings, do we force ourselves into boxes with traits predetermined for us? Why must I always be bubbly, social, and wear clothes I don't feel like myself in? It didn't make sense to me why everyone wanted to be the same when we are also so wonderfully different. From that moment on, I promised myself that I would do exactly what I want. I am grateful that life has presented me with the opportunity to find my own being and come to peace with myself. I encourage you to do the same. It's not easy, but it's so worth it.
By Daniella Portnoy, 15