True to Yourself

By Kelly DeWindt, teenager


Why is it so important to be yourself, even when people don't (or won't) appreciate you for being different?


Sometimes it's really hard to be different from the norm, but being yourself is one of the most important things of all.

There's one in every class -- the loner, the outcast, the freak. Call it what you will, it seems that there is always one person who is considered weird, even if all he or she has done is to dare to be different from the norm -- to be a tomboy in a preppy school, or to try hard in schoolwork at a high school driven by athletics. In sixth through eighth grades, but especially seventh, I was that "freak." In my class, all the girls (except for two) hated me. I didn't really fit in with the guys because I got good grades. The only three people who would talk to me were actually spreading rumors behind my back. What a life! I ate lunch with my three so-called "friends," but basically kept to myself most of the time. I smiled rarely, was normally depressed, and my temper flared up at every occasion. I could have put on a false front, smiled at everyone, not have been as close to the guys so the girls would like me more, and dumbed down a little, but I refused to do so. Why? Because I knew that if I did that, I would not be true to myself, and that was something that I would not do. No matter how bad things grew, I promised myself that I would remain on the outside who I am on the inside. I learned to wear a mask to hide my tears, and I learned to hide my fury so as not to egg on my tormentors. But I never pretended to be somebody I wasn't.

It's amazing, though, when you are being yourself, the friends you do make are all the more dear to you because they like you for being yourself, not for pretending to be who they want you to be. For example, in seventh grade, aside from sharing the same first name, my homeroom teacher and I soon discovered that we loved the same genre of books, TV shows, and movies -- namely, science fiction. From there, we discovered that we had more in common. My homeroom teacher, her daughter, and I became very close, and I would often spend a while after school in her classroom with her and her daughter. Those moments kept me going through seventh grade, along with the fact that they liked me for me. If two people liked who I was, why not others?

Bette Midler says, "Cherish forever what makes you unique, 'cuz you're really a yawn if it goes." These words personify the importance of being yourself, of not molding to the norm, of loving your differences. If everyone was just like everyone else, the world would be like some bad Sci-Fi movie where robots have overtaken the world. No one would be different. Everyone would think, look, act, talk, and be the same. There would be no progress. No one would push the boundaries of our society, and so no ideas would be created. How boring! It is so important to be who you are.

Being true to yourself is not just a challenge of modern times. This same experience is portrayed in the story of Ruth in the Bible (Ruth 1). Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, is a widow in a foreign country. After her sons die, she decides to go back to her native country. It could have been a lot easier to give up her beliefs to fit in and stay where she was. But of course, she doesn't do that. No, instead she decides to travel alone rather than change who she is because she understands that who she is is the most important thing in the world. That conviction instills a deep sense of calm, courage, and dependability in her -- so much so, that Ruth, her daughter-in-law, decides to go with her. Ruth loves Naomi for the courageous person she is -- herself! This is what makes Naomi incredible. Both Naomi and Ruth are blessed.

So, even though it may be tough at times, I hope you see the importance of being yourself. Don't be afraid of being different. Sure, I had a tough couple of years, but the few friends I did make were some of the best friends I've had. I made it, and now, in high school, I love being different. It's why I have friends. I like Eleanor Roosevelt's statement: "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one."