"Learning To Stay Unaffected" is a story about the side effects of growing up. It shows how hard life can hit you.
By Ava, 1st grade
Regardless of what beliefs we are told by everyone around, life is not about adjusting to everything and everyone. It may be true that we feel better and safer knowing that we fit in, but is it really the point? How can we truly feel good with the fact that we are simply pretending to be somebody we are not? Some people seem not to worry about that and continue living in a lie - but then ,there’s a question: who are we fooling? And unfortunately, the only possible answer is: no one else but ourselves.
Certainly, we live in the times of extreme judgement. We get lost in the era of social media and trends. New standards are defined all the time, and that is why our self-confidence is only getting weaker. It is said that women should be slim, men should be manly, mothers should give up everything for their children, teenagers will only be cool wearing this or that and… how can we possibly not get confused amidst all these rules? We start questioning ourselves and, sooner or later, start conforming to the norms that are floating in our minds. People tend to see what is different as something ugly and wrong, as if anything “abnormal” was something needing to be fixed.
I experienced this first-hand. I used to be a happy, strong and stubborn child. Nobody would ever think that I could get sucked into such problems as well, and yet, there we were. In 6th grade, I started noticing that kids around me were very similar, following specific interests, tastes and behaviours. They wanted to wear the same ‘cool’ clothes, have the same hairstyles, play the same games. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider that a bad thing because trends are common and inevitable at this age, but what did concern me was that kids like me, who didn’t try to fit in, got mocked, rejected, bullied and humiliated. In my case, it didn’t get as serious, but I was indeed rejected, which had a big impact on my self-esteem. Many times I saw my classmates walking back home together, hanging out, while I was always alone, always the last one to be picked to work together during a lesson.
I felt irrelevant and learned to be invisible. I lost all confidence and got very uncommunicative, because I always thought that I would say something wrong. I remember hiding in my room each time my brother had friends over, not to be subject to any contact. I created a safety bubble by putting up walls separating me from others. I was all alone there, not willing to let anybody in. I didn’t have any friends to talk to during lunch or breaks, which really made my social skills disappear. I didn’t know how to talk to or what to talk about with others. I would sit in the back of the class, watch kids laugh and have fun together, better off without me. I did believe that, in some way, no one can see me and no one knows who I am. There were some people wanting to help me, mostly my family, but I did not let them, because I didn’t want to “bother” them.
After almost 6 years, my attitude changed. I somehow started seeing the good things in me, and appreciate my difference. That period of my life has taught me so much, due to which I discovered how precious every mind is, and how valuable it is that there are people who are not afraid to show their true selves. And that’s how I wish everyone was able to function – focusing on our strengths, realizing how interesting it is to meet people who are totally different from each other, embracing our weaknesses and, by that, inspiring others to find that courage as well.
Every human being is different, and that is beautiful. There’s such a variety of people surrounding us, and we cannot let it disappear just because of our fear of being rejected. We need to relief ourselves from our self-created safety bubble, before it gets too hard to do. Being persistent in doing what we love and being the way we want to be is a real treasure, and for me, that is the definition of succeeding in life. Without that, we can’t achieve full happiness no matter how rich or famous we are. As Bob Marley once said: “The only problem is people are being hated when they are real and loved when they are fake”. To sum up, despite all our differences, preferences and beliefs, we all deserve to be happy expressing our true selves whatever the true self might be.