The Importance of Individualization
I’m not sure when in my 18 years, but sometime as a child or teenager I remember learning the saying, “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.” Certainly now, as an independent, responsible, mature 18-year-old, I can say I have discovered my unique, authentic self. I do what I want, because I want to – not because others want me to.
But I wasn’t always like this. Growing up with a twin sister, we have been like two peas in a pod, inseparable at the hip – making the same friends, playing the same sports, practically growing up as the same person.
I can still remember it vividly. My first group tennis clinic with my twin sister by my side. We walk onto the court and being the shy 6-year-olds we were, quietly joined the group of other kids. Shortly after, the instructor joined us and asked, “everyone here is right handed, right?” It was in this moment that I began to panic, seeing as I was left handed, but why did he assume everyone was right handed? I froze, and not wanting to be different from the group, my sister and I didn’t speak up – and started our tennis career as right handed players.
Obviously, in this moment, I didn’t understand the importance of individualizing myself. I didn’t want to stand out, I wanted to do what the group did.
But then came high school where I was allowed to pick different classes – college prep, honors, or advanced placement – different electives – anything from cooking foreign foods to creating ceramic vases – different extracurriculars – student council to service leagues. I realized that if I did things only because my friends and peers around me did them, I would spend the next four years being unhappy.
It was from here on out that I knew I had to always be true to myself. I can’t live my life to the fullest if I’m trying to fit in with what everybody else is doing. When it came time to apply to colleges, I didn’t apply to places just because my friends were – I thought about what I really cared about and let my thoughts and passions lead the way.
Throughout my experiences, I have learned that it is important to listen to what others say and their advice, but to ultimately make decisions for myself – to be myself.