They were confused because none of
them had thought that entering the Student Council
elections would force them into a situation in which they
would be ridiculed by their peers.
had to wonder what had happened to the message
"You're fine just as you are! You don't need to
dress up or do something different just to attract
attention--be yourself, and be proud of that!"
I know that if I were voting in such an election, I would
be much more likely to vote for someone who showed their
own personality and who didn't resort to some silly
gimmick to try to attract attention.
the message here, subtle as it might have been, was that
"you're not good enough as you are--you need
something more to attract people's attention."
This is a curse of our modern culture in which so many
people are trying to attract other people's attentions
that the most insecure of them resort to means that are
simply over-the-top, and they make it more difficult for
the people who are content with themselves to be seen and
heard in a noisy world.
are we teaching our young people when we teach them that
they need to dress up as a superhero if they want to be a
member of the student council? What are we teaching
them about the nature of elections--what they should be
and shouldn't be--and the use of gimmicks and tricks to
try to win them? What are we teaching them about the
value of accepting themselves and being comfortable with
themselves? And what are we teaching them when we
tell them that they have to do something that makes them
uncomfortable just because some teacher said they have to
To the students who
came to me to talk about it, I gave a very simple
message: you're fine just as you are, and you don't
need to dress up as anything to be a great person.
Don't give in to any pressure to be something you're not,
because your own identity is the most important thing that
you have, and you shouldn't compromise it for any
reason. Be true to yourself, and allow your feelings
to guide you. It didn't completely work: at
least one of the girls who absolutely hated the idea
succumbed to the pressure because she thought she couldn't
win if she didn't do so. I hope that in her case,
this situation helps her to learn the value of being true
to herself and not giving in to pressure to compromise her
Our world is
becoming more and more a place in which people's
identities as individuals aren't valued, and that's a very
tragic fact. We've got to be happy with who we
are--completely accepting of ourselves with all our gifts
and talents and faults--if we ever hope to be happy
people. We cannot find any peace of mind or heart if
we spend our lives trying to please others, doing things
that we don't necessarily want to do just to gain their
praise or acceptance. And as authority figures and
role models, it's important that we help our young people
to be happy with who they are, to help them to accept
themselves--for those young people can't grow into strong
adults without a clear sense of self and a healthy sense
of their personal identity. Never should we tell
anyone, "You're not good enough just as you are--you
need to be something different."
we also need to be careful that what we think is the
message we're sending is actually the message that's being
received. . . but that's another story, isn't it?