I believe in being an individual. More precisely, in being myself and being proud of my life. I remember back in junior high school how I wished I was someone else. Someone else who was popular, who was a “real cool cat”, and that guy that was the central attraction. That seemed to be everything that mattered socially in those days. High school is a different story, though. I’ve come to realize that the thing that constitutes a person is not his professional title, it is not his impressive list of life accomplishments, but rather, it is the content of his character.
What does it mean to be an individual? Personally, I don’t know the definition that is accepted universally; I can only ponder. I don’t find it to be a solid, defined idea, but rather a loose idea that can be applied to each and every life differently. In my life, I define being an individual as the ability to love, know, accept, respect, and understand oneself. After all, life wouldn’t be so wonderful if we all thought, spoke, and looked alike. It’s nice to see a mixture of cultures, lifestyles… ideas in general. It’s nice to see differing viewpoints on life. It’s nice to notice, and respect, the thing that sets one person apart from another.
I believe in keeping an open mind. I believe in keeping an open heart. I believe in being myself and doing the things I enjoy, even if I am criticized for it. For example, let’s say I like this specific shirt and my best friend thinks it’s tragically hideous. Even though I value his opinions, I am not going to stop wearing that shirt. After all, judgment is in the mind of the beholder. I know what is best for me, and I like to think that I know myself better than anyone else knows me, so by all means, I’ll wear that shirt if I want to. It does take a massive heap of introspection to find the inner self, to find the essence of our true personality. Believe me, it took a lot of work to figure out what my life is all about, but in the end, it is worth the blood, sweat, and tears. Take it from me; I’ve gone through the process. I’ve gone through many philosophies on life, or religions, as many call them. I’ve chosen to stick with the Taoist philosophy, and I don’t consider it too much of a religion since it basically gives me an outline for my life upon which I can build, which I can interpret in my own way, and that is what is important to me. It allows me to calm myself, and to remain calm. Personally, I use meditation, but the method is not what is important. In essence, religion should merely give the individual the first step forward, if that. Now, I know what you might be thinking: “He’s still a teenager, what does he know?” I’ll tell you what I know – I know myself. I am that one guy who is shy, yet outgoing. Friendly and social, yet independent and reclusive. Some might say I live an oxymoron, but I say it’s a tiny paradox. I live by the principle of universal balance, where hot and cold are not opposites; rather, they just define each other.
I believe we should all seek out the people we want to be. I find it ridiculous not aspire to do something that I have a passion for just because of the social pressure to be accepted. The only thing that should matter is accepting me for who I am, and I can guarantee that others will eventually see the real person that I am, and they will learn to respect me as I respect myself. It might be a psychological thing, but I call it confidence. Why should anyone feel ashamed for being himself, an individual?
The father of Taoism, Lao Tzu, once stated: “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.”
This, I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.