By: Zach Maphala
It’s 2017 and we live in a world where we are encouraged to be ourselves, yet we are constantly judged for doing exactly that. It often feels as if one is permanently stuck between a rock and a hard place. And you know what else? There’s no way to escape it. Throughout the years of my life, I have learned that there is a price you have to pay for being yourself – as unsettling as that may sound. This price, which can never be negotiated or avoided, reminds us that nothing in this life that is worth having could ever come easy.
In my experience, living on your own terms in a world that is always trying to stifle individualism has to be the biggest act of bravery. Most times, people will not understand you and whatever it is you decide to stand up for. But since when is that a reason for you to censor yourself? In fact, if you think of it, most icons and legends alike are people who dared to live and speak their own truth – even in the face of heavy opposition. We are always told to be proud of who we are, to love ourselves, to celebrate our identities, but we never discuss how difficult it is to do just that in a society that always aims to oppress the individual.
I do believe that at some point in all our lives, we arrive at the understanding that it is always going to very important to live up to your own standards, whether or not the people around you agree or support it. However, as a person that chooses to make their own life choices, one perpetually lives in the realm of risk-taking. It is true that if you want to leave the house as yourself, you also have to prepare yourself for society’s response, as unfavourable as the response might be. Opposition will present itself in many forms, and it is up to us to gracefully reject each of those many forms.
Sometimes being who you really are, or who you think you ought to be in that moment, means that you could lose those closest to you. It means that even though people might truly love and appreciate you, they might begin to no longer understand your growth, and decide not to be a part of it at all. As painful as the detachment could be, we should remember that the pain of disowning our true selves will always be the worst kind. It is undoubtedly easier said than done, but it is essential to always choose yourself.
With all the long-lived threats to selfhood, we need to remind ourselves that the riskiest road is very often the most rewarding. Irrespective of public opinion, the only way to total happiness is uncensored self-expression.
You will surely face challenges you never knew existed, just to be able to express yourself as fully and as thoroughly as possible. Even so, let us not be afraid to step out of the norm and into our true selves.