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Being Different This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Ask teenagers what their views are on fitting in with the crowd. Many will reply that they want to fit in, be like the popular kids, or go with the flow. The majority of teens who reply that they want to stand out still base many of their actions on fitting in with others. Ask people why they hang out where they do. Common responses are that friends hang out there, or that it is a popular place. Why do people wear what they wear? Typical replies are that the clothes are in style, or that the popular kids wear them. Many of the actions of teenagers are driven by a desire to fit in.

I am one of the relatively few teenagers who really wants to be unique. Moreover, I never use any of these reasons. Why do I want to be unique? I think deep down, the reason is based on human nature. Something about feeling useful, needed, and purposeful is rewarding to me, and probably to others too. If I am unique, then I can fill some niche better than any other person. If I am just like everyone else, then any niche I fill could probably be filled just as well by someone else, and so I would cease to be useful and needed.

I usually wear shirts that are in some way related to math or science. Why? It increases the likelihood that someone who shares my interests - math, science, computers, and learning - will talk to me, presenting the opportunity for learning, my favorite activity.

Historically, I have never wanted to fit in. One example occurred when I was in third grade. I was ready to go to school with my bulky sweatshirt tucked into my elastic sweat pants. Seeing how I was dressed, my mom said, “Why don’t you wear your sweatshirt out?” I replied, “No, it’s okay.” She tried again, “Well, it’s really designed to be worn out.” I replied, “I like it better in. It’s more comfortable.” My mom kept trying, “Well, it looks kind of silly, and you don’t want kids to tease you.” I countered, “My true friends won’t tease me about how I dress, and anyone who teases me isn’t a true friend, just a bully, so why should I care what he thinks?” My mom gave up and instead exclaimed, “You’re absolutely right! But, I like seeing it out, so do me a favor and wear it out,” as she untucked it.

Even then, I changed my appearance only to satisfy my mom, not to be accepted. I was, and still am, almost impervious to peer pressure. Peer pressure is driven by and drives a desire to fit in. The people who do the pressuring are attempting to fit in by changing the crowd to make others more like themselves, while those who give in to peer pressure are trying to fit in by changing themselves to be more like the crowd.

Contrary to what some would say, I think being different is good. Anyone who says otherwise is focusing on the wrong aspects of being different. Bullies focus on the negative aspects of how others are different. People who succumb to peer pressure focus on how they are different in negative ways from what is considered “normal.” I enjoy being different because I focus on the positive aspects of how I am different, and engage in pursuits that allow me to feel good about myself.

My advice to anyone who is being bullied is to find something about being different that is helpful. Bullies most likely will stop when teasing is no longer enjoyable. Because bullying is meant to elicit a response, when that person stops being affected by the bullying, it no longer accomplishes its goal. Since bullies are used to teasing people, it is possible that they can tell if a person is affected by the bullying by subtle changes in appearance, just like wild predators can “sense” fear in their prey. Thus, it might not be enough to simply pretend that the bullying does not matter. However, if the person being bullied is truly unaffected, it won’t elicit any response other than mild annoyance.

I am, as my mom says, “bully-proof” because I am logical. I see teasing for what it is, and that makes it illogical to anyone other than the bully. An illogical statement is obviously untrue and cannot evoke an emotional response. To see the lack of logic behind their statements (which really only amount to “being like me is better than being like you”), I only have to enjoy being myself. My advice for achieving this is to find an activity you love and become the best you can be at it.

By viewing bullying in a logical way, feeling comfortable being yourself, and looking for the positive aspects of being different, it is possible to overcome bullying, as well as many other obstacles.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

BBH_Shady said...
Mar. 28 at 8:43 am:
i really like the essay it very true and i agree with you.
 
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SFeathery This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm:
While i agree with the general view of this article, there are some points i didnt like. I don't think that we should all strive to be unique, I think that we should just strive to do what we wish to do, REGARDLESS of ANYTHING! too many times, ive seen people who, in their effort to be "special" or "unique," disadvantage themselves in order to stand out. My fellow nerd friends will criticize me because i buy clothing from popular stores, or because i like to read sappy ... (more »)
 
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Furry Feline said...
Mar. 14, 2012 at 11:44 am:
Being Different is a good thing, you are made special, no one made to be like you. 
 
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Michie.xo said...
Apr. 25, 2011 at 11:35 pm:
At some point I always second guessed myself and I didn't feel comftarble in my own skin.I was insecure.But I realized that this is me,this is who I am.The way I dress,the way i look,the type of music i listen too and the way i talk.It all defines me.After trying so hard to fit in-and horribily failing at it.I started not to care anymore.It was like trying to put a shoe on that didn't fit.It just wan't me.So I cut the act and just wanted to be me.And eventually I found people that were a lot lik... (more »)
 
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Abigail_W said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 3:44 pm:
Look at me. While all of my friends are wearing Aeropostale sweatshirts and Etnies sneakers, here I am, wearing jeans that I ripped myself, a Rolling Stones T-shirt, a bandana wrapped around my head, and blue Converse high-tops with mismatching knee-high socks sticking out of them.

I could decide to simply fit in when the most picked on boy in the grade is getting picked on. Instead, I do what my instinct tells me to, and say to his picker-onner, "You know what? Just shut up. Leav... (more »)
 
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wingedgirl4eva said...
Dec. 30, 2008 at 10:45 pm:
That is awesome!!! I have always been frustrated by how you have to wear the right clothes and act the right way, or else people will tease you. But it doesn't actually matter, as you pointed out.I also try to be different and wear what I want to and what I feel good in. What's the point of wearing something you don't like?
 
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striker0305 said...
Aug. 25, 2008 at 10:56 pm:
But you have to also some people make up their own rules and their own clothes and dress how they please and some people want to be like that and copy so sometimes that becomes the in crowd. Many people have the same interest and a lot of people want to be with the because they are cool. It is all about personality.
 
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