When we first began learning, even as infants, we learned to label things; this ball is round, this paper is white, this rock is hard. From here we began creating stereotypes those dogs bark loud, those kids are mean, these toys aren’t fun to play with. Starting at such young an age these stereotypes hinder our growth. When we create stereotypes we put limits on ourselves. As we get older we become afraid to do certain things, afraid that we might break out of the stereotype we have become a part of. I myself have at times fallen into the trap of attempting to be something I’m not. The idea of not being accepted becomes such a fear that pretending to be someone else seems like an easy way to escape the pain.
As a young adult this premise seems to be at its pinnacle. So many kids spend so much time trying to abide by the unwritten rules of high school that they never find who they truly are. My ideas on these unwritten rules changed a few years ago when I attended a summer camp. Unlike the people at my school, none of the people at camp knew me; at camp I wasn’t ‘labeled.’ It was such an invigorating experience to be able to be who I really was. I wasn’t worried about doing something that would contradict the label I had received when I was in fifth grade from my peers at school. When we were signing up for activities I chose to try new activities, things that normally I would be afraid to try because I was afraid of how people would judge me. I realized that at school everything I did was judged; if I was playing basketball instead of painting my nails I would be called a tomboy, and if I wasn’t that good at basketball I would get made fun of. I finally realized that I enjoyed being me a lot more when I wasn’t afraid of breaking the boundaries of the stereotype I had been put in at school. That next September I went back to school proud of who I was and who I was becoming. I had enough self-confidence to realize that I could be myself in front of anyone and not feel ashamed. Sometimes it can be difficult, sometimes I do wish that I was somebody else, I wish that I could be living the life of someone who embodies all the traits I don’t but it’s only when we realize that we can’t do these things that we can make the best of our lives. When I start to look at various aspects of my life I realize that I have a good deal of things to be proud of and appreciative for. I realize that I don’t have to be someone else to be happy or to succeed in life. I realize that who I am deserves to be expressed freely, not hidden behind a stereotype.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.