How many times have you seen a group of white boys in their natural habitat, hitting up Botany Town Centre with their sweatshorts, high socks and bucket-hats? Clad in long sleeve white tees with random symbols on the sleeves, they loiter, bored – but happy to be safe with the herd, a group that they feel they belong to.
Now, I’m not just picking on or stereotyping this group in particular, this goes for many groups of people you will see in public, exhibiting the same behaviour. Like girls who wear green army trench coats and Adidas Superstars. This phenomenon is most common in teens, when we are at an age where we feel vulnerable and insecure. It’s okay to want to camouflage and blend in with the crowd. After all, it is a primitive instinct to protect us from danger. In this case, we may feel exposed if we stand out. But why should we strive to be a shrinking violet our whole lives? Part of the clone club?
This brings me to school mufti days. These are great for fundraising, and for those who want to show off. For many of us, mufti day is dreaded, and often dubbed ‘judgement day.’ It’s a chance for people to impress, or to gleefully pick apart other people’s clothing choices. People spend hours the night before choosing the perfect outfit for the big day, with some even going as far as buying new clothes in preparation. With all this stress and effort, you would think you are doing more than just going to school and seeing a bunch of kids. So you dress to blend, in the latest suburban Auckland fashion, hoping you are spared.
In turn, I wouldn’t call myself a particularly fashionable person, choosing instead to recycle the same three trusty outfits in the form of a t-shirt and shorts. Maybe a skirt, if I’m in a jazzy mood. To be quite honest, twelve year old me and current me have not changed much in terms of fashion. This is all well, until not only my friends, but my own mother calls me out for my repetitive and unadventurous attire. This may reflect on my shopping habits, where I often ask myself before buying something – “Would I be brave enough to wear this in public?” which promptly leads me to chicken out and resume buying ‘wallflower’ clothing.
So what leads me to dwell on such a trivial matter? Why do I care so much about what others think? It’s the fact that us as humans, have placed so much worth and importance into how we look. It does go without saying that we should always make an effort to look tidy and presentable, but when you are in despair, it can be very easy to just say, “Who even cares?”
Now we have pinpointed the issue. An ethical and philosophical conundrum. Caring is a fundamental factor that defines us as human. While – being a melodramatic teenager – the sweet release of nihilism is tempting, there are better ways to cope than to throw away your motivation and watch TV shows all day.
When looking at the full spectrum of life, we are faced with unbelievable diversity. For example, when visiting Tokyo last summer – which by the way, is a mad cultural wonderland – I packed some fun and colourful clothing, thinking that I could avoid looking like a middle aged tourist. I was wrong. To put it bluntly, I was no match for the different styles I saw there, ranging from classy to crazy. Best of all, there were no looks of distaste if you dyed your hair crazy colors or wore six inch platforms. Of course you wouldn’t publicly express a negative opinion, but the majority seemed to be accepting that everybody has the right to be different and express themselves in a way that they choose, as long as it’s not harmful. While Tokyo may be a wide example, the same consensus exists everywhere across the globe. People strive to be trendsetting and individual.
Why shouldn’t we do the same?
Perhaps it’s a sort of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ that seems to be lurking about in our society. We are constantly told to ‘be yourself’, ‘embrace who you are’ and ‘dare to be square!’. Every single time, I ask myself, “do I even know who I am?” Before you laugh at my identity crisis, let me explain. In research for this article, I read an enlightening WikiHow guide on ‘Being Yourself’, with step number one being, ‘Discovering Who You Are’. I then had a startling revelation. People struggle with this because they are too busy trying to be other people.
So let’s be ourselves! Sadly this then brings us more grief and issues. If you dye your hair a fun color, you are seen as attention seeking. If a girl wears a band t-shirt they are seen as attempting to be ‘edgy’. ‘Do you even listen to that band?’ and ‘Don’t wear Thrasher if you don’t skate’ are phrases that are commonly thrown around. We are defensive and quick to stereotype, which is a further incentive to blend back into the crowd.
Unfortunately, society will always be this way, because let’s face it. We have all had the same thoughts run through our heads.
In a wider perspective, we are also judgemental in many other aspects of life. But we need to remember that what we judge others upon, is based on our own insecurities. It’s easy to forget yourself, to try and be someone else in order to fit in, seek approval from your peers or feel confident.
But life is way too short to be unhappy, or to seek fulfillment that is empty and meaningless.
It’s impossible to please everyone, so you should try to spend your time doing things that make you happy. Admin a meme page. Rock out to emo music you listened to when you were thirteen. Whether it be tomorrow or next year, make a change so that you don’t feel like you are constantly comparing yourself to others. This is the healthiest state of existence we can achieve.
You have only got one life, so go out there and be different.
Just like everybody else.
Author: Elena Pihera
Editor: Tara Jackson