Everyone succeeds in their own time. We are not early. We are not late. We are very much on time. Nevertheless, the pressure of comparing ourselves to the successes of others still plagues us constantly. Inspirational speakers encourage us to be ourselves, to live boldly and positively. Nevertheless, there are times when we feel disconnected from reality, our mind and body, as if we existed in a haze, like we are dreaming. We live as we dream, alone.
It is okay to not be okay.
On the threshold of adulthood, it is common for young people, like you and I, to experience panic attacks about peer pressure, identity crisis, body image, financial security, and so on. A blogger that I really admire – Akwaaba, Tung – gave some useful advice about these anxieties: “The hard thing about hitting rock bottom is that on the way down, you will never know when you will hit your lowest point. But the good thing about it is that the only way out is for you to climb up.” His words gave me a lot of food for thought. But what if the bottom is really hard and we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Academic performance, career, status, sex, love – although very unique and personal problems to every individual – are often used as a yardstick for “success” to compare and evaluate one another. What is your GPA this term? My friends are offered internships in Big Four marketing companies, what am I doing with my life right now? I feel like a lot of my friends have had sex before, is it weird that I am still a virgin? How many boyfriends/ girlfriends did you have? I have never been in a relationship before, is it because of my appearance or do I not deserve to be loved? These constant comparisons harm us mentally and will only lead us in a downward spiral of self-hatred and insecurity. In an extended version of Dr. Jean Milburn’s quote from my favorite series Sex Education, she once said: “Our grades, our ability to get a good job, how good or bad we are in bed, the number of boyfriends/ girlfriends we dated, etc., do not make us whole, so why can they ever determine us?” Indeed, what identifies us should be our personalities, the way we express ourselves, and how we treat people around us.
However, that also brings us to another problem: the identity crisis. Many people have trouble with navigating themselves among a sea of individuals, while others are still afraid to reveal their true identity to the public. This is majorly a coming-of-age problem in which young people have to figure out their passion, what they are good at, and whether they can make a living out of doing the things they love. With the following points, I will share some ways which help me in my journey of self-discovery. A testament that I learned to get closer to finding my passions, is asking myself which topic I feel comfortable talking about for one hour, without preparation. Because for me, passion is something you will not get tired of talking about. Moreover, I also enjoy observing people’s outfits everyday, as it inspires me to express myself openly through the power of clothing. On a psychological level, what people wear can reveal a part of a person’s characteristics. It is visually pleasing to see many young people dismantle the outdated gender stereotypes of what should be inherently defined as feminine or masculine clothes. They unapologetically put on items that make them feel most like themselves, challenge the viewers to make eye contact, and encourage people like me to do so as a form of self-expression.
Hence, while there are many ways to help us understand ourselves a little bit more, it is liberating to firstly accept that we hit rock bottom and that we are imperfect and fragmented. This gives us the opportunity to gradually alter things on micro levels after being sunk in negative thoughts for too long. After all, it is hard to get to the good unless we overcome the power of bad.
Author: Quynh Trang Le
Editor: Phoebe Elliott
Visuals by: Alisa Mahaletska