Keeping Individuality

By Nick Barron, high school student and Marjorie Foerster Eddington


How can you keep your individuality and still fit in and have friends when people judge you on appearances?


Being an individual can be difficult in high school. Some teenagers have trouble finding who they really are. Some don't seem to have enough confidence in themselves to express their true identity and individuality. Individuality is defined as "qualities and characteristics that distinguish one person or thing from others."

But teenagers also want to fit in and have friends. It can be hard to find friends and get along with others. So, some people do things they wouldn't normally do or wear clothes they wouldn't normally wear because they think that they will be cool if they do, and they'll fit in.

This is because we focus too much on the outer appearance of people and not enough on what's really inside. One of the common ways that people are judged in today's world is by the clothes they wear. If people get clothes from popular stores like American Eagle or Abercrombie and Fitch, they might be classified as preppy. Other people might be classified as skaters, gangsters, nerds, or jocks, to name a few.

But there are certain things that make being an individual and finding friends easier. There's a story in the Bible that shows us how Jesus refused to judge people on appearances. When Jesus was having dinner over at Simon the Pharisee's house, a woman "which was a sinner" washed Jesus' feet "with tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (Luke 7:37, 38). Other people judged her on her appearance. When Simon saw her, "he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner" (39).

But Jesus saw who she really was inside. He saw beauty and perfection and all the good qualities in her. He told Simon, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little" (47). Think what would happen if we could look at one another as Jesus looked at this woman. People wouldn't have to be judged by the way they look or the way they dress.

Everyone expresses different qualities, which is great. To show your true identity, you must be very firm in the way that you express yourself. I think one of the reasons why it's hard for some people to find friends is that they look so hard to find someone who expresses himself or herself in the same way they do. You don't have to express the same qualities as someone else or like the same things to be friends. That's what makes friendships so great. You learn more about the way others are different, which helps you learn more about yourself and the world.

The same way that Jesus reached out and loved everyone is the way that we have to reach out and love one another. I have learned a lot about myself and others this year because I have expanded my "circle of friendship." Finding new friends and loving everyone you meet helps you appreciate the qualities others express and the things they like. Going out on a limb, meeting new people, and bringing them into your group also creates new opportunities. That doesn't mean you forget the friends you've had. Valuing your group of friends is good because those friends are always there for you.

Although others will be different than you, you always have to know who you are and stay firm and steady with your own identity. Even if there are people who judge you on what you wear or how you look, if you have a clear and firm idea of who you are, it doesn't matter what others think -- just as long as you love them. When you know who you are, you realize that no matter how people judge you, you won't change just to fit in. Knowing who you are frees you from all judgments and labels that are put on you (either by yourself or others).

If we force ourselves into an identity that we think will make others like us, it takes away our individuality, which is what distinguishes me from you and you from your friend. If we let our individuality be taken away, then we won't be anything but fakes and imposters of what society tells us we should be. Individuality is what makes each and every one of us special.