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  • danielle cohen

What Path Are You Going to Pave?

We make lots of choices each day. We decide what to eat for breakfast, what sports to play, what classes to take, what show to watch, and who to hang out with.


But when you make decisions, do you think about what you want, deep down inside? Or do you think about what’s expected?


The people who surround us are a huge influence on our decisions. Many of us feel the need to change ourselves for the benefit of other people, and not necessarily for ourselves. And this is where it gets personal. Why? Because lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the choices I make, and why I make them.


I’ve found myself wondering, what do I look like to other people? It’s not just about my physical traits. It’s also about my personality and the first impressions I make. It’s the vibe I give off. What do you think when you see me?


Let’s be real: our appearance plays a HUGE role in our lives. When we wake up, we immediately a string of decisions about our appearance. Do I want to look cute or comfy? If I look comfy will people think I look ugly? Should I wear makeup? If I don’t wear makeup, will I look bad?


And ultimately, here’s the big question: why do we have to feel so pressured by the people around us? I mean, they’re human too. They wake up and make the same decisions about what to wear. But the thing is, we all get to school and forget about how we dressed. In fact, some people are jealous when they see the friend who looks comfy because they look so, well, comfy. And comfy feels good. And the truth is, if you’re hanging out with the right friends for you, they don’t judge you based on superficial stuff like how you dress anyway.


But these days, it’s about so much more than how we look when we go to school. Recently, on Snapchat, I asked, “when someone sees that I approved their Instagram request, what do they do and what do they think of me?” We all know when a friend request is approved, the first thing we want to do is look through that new friend’s pictures, posts, and comments. When you look at my Instagram account, I wonder what you think of me? And what do you think of your other new online friends?


This is where it goes DEEP. We begin to wonder, who had the better vacation with the better pictures? Who was with friends, and who was with family? In anticipation of this, we edit our pictures because they aren’t good enough without touch ups. But do we edit them because we want them to look better for ourselves, or because we think they’ll get more likes after the edits?


Here’s the hard fact of the matter: I’m concerned that we’re living so much of our lives through a lens that we’re not enjoying the here and now. Like those moments when we won’t take a picture because we don’t have the “cute” clothes. Or when we do take pictures, but we won’t post them because we don’t look cute enough. And then once we DO post those pictures, we sometimes feel we need to delete them if they don’t get enough likes.


And then, there are those times when we feel bad because we don’t have the right follow-to-followers ratio. Or we don’t have enough posts. Or maybe our posts didn’t get 100, 200, or 300+ likes.


But it doesn’t end there. We worry if our posts fit our desired aesthetic. And then we wonder if our posts are fun/witty/unique enough. The list goes on and on. It’s like a deep, dark black hole that we’re all getting sucked into, and it really doesn’t make us happy. So why do we accept this?


Now that I’m in high school, I’ve seen more and more people change themselves based on the expectations of others. And unfortunately, it’s not just about the clothes they’re wearing. People ditch “unpopular girls” because they aren’t cool enough. They brush others off because they don’t want to be associated with them. They hide their authenticity because they want to fit in, and they’re afraid that the “real me” won’t be good enough.


And why? Because once you post the perfect picture, once you get the right number of likes, and once you hang with the cool people, THAT’S when you’re good enough. But is it really?


We’ve all hidden something before. We’ve all checked our likes, we’ve all edited our pictures, and we’ve questioned whether we fit in with the “in” crowd. But is hiding your true self just to fit in really worth it?


In the age of social media, we’re visible 24/7. We make our decisions differently than our parents did. Sometimes that’s good. But lots of times, it’s not.


How can we reset? Let’s start by asking ourselves some questions: how much have you changed, and for whom? When you think back, can you remember who you really are? Are you being true to your authentic self, or are you doing/saying/posting things because you want to be accepted by others? Do you like the clothes you wear, and do you like your friends?


Take a close look at those answers and decide: are you being true to what you really want, or is it all just for show?


Our generation is paving a new path. Let’s work together to make sure it not only looks good, but it feels right.


With love,

Danielle

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