Spotlight On: Living for Yourself

18 August 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 18 August 2023.

I heard once that the biggest regret of dying is not becoming your ideal self. It has always been a cliché idea, but as someone frequently hounded by my own little anxieties of the future or longings for the past, it is something I’ve come to reflect on in recent weeks, especially at the dawn of my final year at high school.

Beginning Year 11, the people in my daily environment juggled a fair bit, as they usually do when starting a new year. I had drastically different classmates, was partaking in new cocurriculars, and so on. However, over time I found myself wanting to change or hide parts of who I was to fit in with these new groups of people.

Of course, I wasn’t happy; I just simply could not get over the fear of being different. As ridiculous and naïve it may sound in retrospect, it was a very real terror that people would think I’m weird or judge me for simply being myself. So unconquerable it seemed to be that I was frankly willing to avoid it at any cost. But as one comes to realise, that cost includes living your life for other people.

This conclusion hit like a truck. In actuality, it’s so common that 1 in 5 highschoolers experience high or very high levels of psychological distress due to feeling isolated or outcasted by their social circles (BeyondBlue, 2022). It’s ironic that it remains a very lonely journey for the individual. But it makes you ask yourself: what about all the potential – potential relationships, experiences, memories – that you would miss out on being truly happy with? And even by putting aside the opportunistic externalities, what about your own satisfaction with yourself?

In lieu of coming to this realisation, I began ignoring this ‘peer pressure’ and chose to make choices that gratified me – staying firm on the ones that went against the grain of those around me. And like magic, the people around me filtered as I grew closer to those who I could be more comfortable with, keeping the rest at an amicable distance.

It took a lot of soul searching (read: chats with my mum) to navigate through this, and significant courage to actually implement it. But despite this, I’ve unlocked a new type of freedom I’ve never felt before. The gruelling weight of social acquiescence to which I had exhaustingly clung to had started to unravel. Of course, it exists to a decent extent, but it was only after I had consciously freed myself from my self-shackled ‘peer pressure’ chains, that it occurred to me I had blown it all way out of proportion. I now like to think that ultimately, everyone is doing their best, and we’re all a little caught up in ourselves to really pay attention to anyone else anyways.

Now that the bulk of my high school years are behind me, I will treasure dearly all the memories I’ve made, both pleasant and painful, with the people I’ve met. The invitation to attend the Senior Service, a simple email, was a stark reminder for me that all people, places, and things in our lives have a shelf life. So why spend that precious, irreplaceable time being someone you’re unhappy with? To conclude, I’ll humbly bestow a little wisdom from my grand total of 17 years of life to any girls reading this who may also be experiencing these feelings. Creating growth and working on yourself is ongoing, comes with highs and lows, and stacks of awkward moments. But at the end of the day, remember to check the expiration date. Life goes by all too fast to be living for anyone else but yourself.