Steps To Self-Authenticity & Self-Growth: We Should Love The Differences Of Life

Steps To Self-Authenticity & Self-Growth: We Should Love The Differences Of Life

Because you are the only person who can define yourself.

Most of us have grown up with the famous saying "Be yourself" constantly ingrained in the back of our head. Yet during the period of childhood and young adulthood which encouraged individualism, everyone seemed to be doing the opposite-chasing labels and identities which prohibited self-authenticity.

People would endlessly search for the meaning behind fancy clothes, cars, and other objects, only to find that there was no meaning in them at all. Experiencing a Gatsby-like dilemma, they realized that these objects had no substance to them. They realized, or maybe they did not, that these objects will continuously fail to give meaning to your life. Why? Because you are the only person who can define yourself.

With that realization in mind, you are able to undergo self-growth. Self-growth is necessary for your health and your happiness. Sometimes, you need to change or refine how you talk, act and think in efforts to mature. When you search for material objects to fulfill yourself, you inhibit your own self-growth. You block your ways to grow only because you have an innate craving to "fit in".

Following the well-known saying "Be yourself", how can you be yourself when that person stands out from the crowd? Simply, how do you fit in when you clearly stand out? Do you wither in shame and guilt and conform to the opinions and actions of the majority? Or do you coexist with the majority, acknowledging and appreciating the differences you have with others?

Why is our society so scared of a difference? It is true that each human being is unique, it is more than their one-in-a-kind fingerprint. Each person has different ideas, passions, talents, weaknesses, and contributions. By conforming to the mannerisms of others surrounding us, we forget our individual talents and ways in which we, and we alone, can offer ourselves.

Then another question arises, how can we get comfortable standing out from the crowd?

Self-growth is only one part of the process of recognizing your self-authenticity. Another is self-reflection or even meditation. A simple 5 minutes or an hour in yoga can not only calm yourself but also relieve stress and the invisible pressures which coerce us to "fit in" with everyone else.

Another step to this imminent self-growth is dialogue with others. How can we even know who we are, what we believe, and what we think without having a conversation with others? These dialogues can range from all sorts of topics, and they can most likely teach us something new each conversation we have.

The way to grow is to be able to get out of your comfort zone, to ask questions, to engage with the people surrounding you. These conversations do not necessarily mean you have to be indoctrinated to another's perspective, or way of thinking. It simply means that you are willing to learn through the experience of others. And maybe you can learn something completely new, create an entirely different perspective based on who you are, what you believe, and how you wish to live your life.

Like that saying in pre-school went, "Be yourself", despite the pressure to fit in. If you prove to be an exception to this social conformation, then you are proof that there are exceptions to "fitting in" and difference. And through these differences, whether external or internal, there is true beauty.

Cover Image Credit: Juliana Cosenza

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Why The Walk Out Was Necessary For The Gun Control Conversation

The kids are our future and they're making sure we know it.

If you haven't heard about the March 14th Walk Out protest that took place in high schools all across the country, you may be living under a rock. The protest was posted all over social media and shared hundreds of times by passionate students in high schools from coast to coast. It was truly a movement and, like all movements before it, caused a lot of conversation and controversy amongst political parties, parents and really anyone who heard about it.

The Walk Out was organized by the organizers of the Women's March to push for gun reform and to honor students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school; the school where a month before, 17 students and faculty members were killed in cold blood by a shooter. Since that event the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas spoke on national television in front of their peers and superiors alike, begging for stricter gun laws and citing the deaths of their friends and teachers as the reason why. Those senseless deaths deserved not to be in vain. On March 14th, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas walked out of their classes for 17 minutes - in honor of the 17 lives lost that day and to shout their message of stricter gun control loud and clear. These students were not the only ones who did so; thanks to social media, the Walk Out was shared on all platforms and students across the country united with their peers to honor the victims and ask that something be done to prevent more senseless acts of violence in our nation's schools. Despite being something these students felt strongly about, their act was the topic of much controversy in America; the topic of gun control is an incredibly divisive and partisan issue, and these students made sure it was clear what side they were on.

For one teacher in Oak Hall, Virginia, this Walk Out was not the answer. Many people were against the idea, claiming that students were only using it as an excuse to get out of class or to draw attention to themselves rather than the issue it was protesting. This sixth-grade teacher's counter to the movement quickly went viral, prompting more conversation and argument.

At first glance, the message is obvious and innocuous; it's blatantly clear that many of the perpetrators of school shootings in the past have cited mental illness or bullying as the reason they felt compelled to do what they did. The purpose behind the Walk Up Not Out campaign is to fix that, to spread kindness in our schools and hopefully derail a plan of mass murder by inviting someone to sit at your lunch table. It's not a revolutionary idea.

The problem with this campaign becomes clearer the longer you think about it. It is, in essence, victim shaming. By telling students that "just be[ing] nice" is all they need to do, the message of these killings being the students' fault that people feel the need to shoot up schools comes out pretty clearly. Even if this was not the intention of this counter-campaign, that is what is has become.

As a person who has grown up with and around mental illness, and has been in a high school where I saw and have firsthand experience with kids not being so nice to each other, I have never felt the need to grab a gun and take it with me to exact revenge on my peers. I know plenty of people that I went to high school with and connected with later who were bullied, by definition, who ate lunch alone, who never had partners for projects... None of these people ever thought that murdering their classmates was an answer to their problems. While it does seem like a cop out when these cases come to light, the underlying factor of extreme mental illness can not be smiled away. A person who feels the need to kill people is not going to lose that need by eating lunch with other students.

This epidemic of school shootings needs to come to an end. All of the students who walked out of their classrooms in protest of senseless violence, all of the students who are scared to go to school because what if they're next?, and all of the parents who now have to worry that maybe their child won't come home from somewhere they're supposed to be safe know this. Stricter gun control is a huge issue, one that will not be solved easily, but the conversation has to start somewhere. These students are our future, they will be voting in the next election, they will be voting at their state and local levels; these students have something to say and a whole lot of fire behind it.

Walk Up Not Out may very well have been started solely to undermine these students, but it is not a lost cause. These students are walking up to each other every day, talking about their futures and what they can do to ensure they see them. These students are walking up to the voting podiums, making choices to make sure they have the representation that will most showcase their ideals. These students are walking out of their classes to make sure their voices are heard, but they are walking up every day, to make their voices mean something.

Regardless of if you are for or against gun control, it is hard to argue that these students are not making a difference. They are starting the conversation and fighting for their own peace of mind. The kids are our future, and they're making sure we know it.

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The Gun Violence Epidemic In The U.S. Is Out Of Control And It Is Time We Make A Change

Many other countries have much stricter gun control and it is time the U.S. took notice.

It is a sad truth that gun violence in America has become a norm. While the issue is brought up in politics, regulations and laws tend to focus on mental health, arming others with guns, and pretty much anything but actual gun control. Nevertheless, according to The Guardian, there have been 1,624 mass shootings in 1,870 days in the U.S. This means about nine out of every ten days on average there has been a mass shooting.

A mass shooting is most often defined as an event when four or more people are shot during a single incident. In 2017 alone, there were 345 mass shootings, and as of February 21, there have been 34 in 2018. In two months, 34 mass shootings have occurred and the U.S. is no closer to stopping that number from rising. To compare, many other countries have much stricter gun control and it is time the U.S. took notice.

In Britain on August 20, 1987, the Hungerford gun massacre occurred when a lone gunman killed 16 people and then himself. The shooter, Michael Ryan, had a handgun and two semi-automatic rifles. After Hungerford, Britain cracked down and banned the right to own semi-automatic firearms, pump action weapons, and registration became mandatory. Nine years later, another mass shooting occurred with handguns. This led to the eventual banning of all cartridge ammunition handguns.

In Japan, there is a 1958 law on the possession of swords and firearms. It states no one shall possess a firearm or firearms except a shotgun, but still with high regulation. Prospective shotgun owners must attend and pass classes, writing and practical exams, psychological assessments, and extensive background checks.

In Australia, after a mass shooting resulting in 35 deaths by one gunman, gun control regulations swept the political scene. Part of the gun reform included a national gun buyback policy for all weapons that did not comply with the new licensing and registration system (automatic and semi-automatic rifles), which led to the buyback and melting down of more than 650,000 firearms in Australia.

In the countries that have suffered tragic gun violence and implemented gun control regulations, gun violence has shrunk considerably, especially in comparison to the U.S. It is estimated that Americans own 48% of the estimated 650 million civilian-owned guns worldwide. This news should be eye-opening, but it is common knowledge that of the high income and highly-developed nations, the U.S. having some of the worst rates of gun violence and gun-ownership is not surprising.

In the wake of the Parkland, FL Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in which tragically 17 people were shot and killed by an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, the students involved have brought about the #NeverAgain movement. The movement advocated for tighter gun regulations to prevent these kinds of tragic mass shootings and gun violence. This movement and many others like it that came before are vital to promoting the needed change in the U.S.
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