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Opinion

Expand your thinking: Individualism, ‘right’ way to live

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September 23, 2011

Society defines success in an extraordinarily narrow manner, by obtaining good grades, a high-paying career, a plethora of material goods, physical attractiveness, and time each week devoted to particular tasks such as volunteering, extracurricular involvements, and leadership roles.

The pressure to conform to these rules increases when a student wishes to apply to graduate or medical school. Post-baccalaureate colleges often hold stringent requirements for their future students, demanding every applicant to present a well-rounded resume. These requirements offer little in the way of individuality, despite what admissions offices claim.

After all, if every applicant holds essentially the same resume, few free thinkers or people with an extraordinary, yet singular, gifts have an opportunity at such colleges.

While society claims to encourage individualism, it contradicts itself with little leniency for individualistic actions. Society fails to understand that individualism consists not merely of volunteering in different locations, but in creating unique opportunities and helping the world in significant ways never before imagined. Many colleges brag of their diversity, but never realize that diversity covers more than race; it encompasses sexual orientation, religion, personality, interests, majors, cultures, and any other imaginable difference between two humans. By identifying the example of colleges’ narrow views of a successful and unique student, one can begin to understand society’s overall failures in accepting true individuals. Actual success stems from a person’s willingness to behave free of societal norms and to push the limits of free thinking.

Varied perspectives, along with the people who hold these perspectives and their multitude of soul-searching questions, create a rich and intelligent society. If everyone held the same viewpoint and never voiced their opinions or questioned authority, the world would become unimaginably more dangerous because one person would control the mass’ beliefs.

By opening minds to acknowledge and understand every viewpoint presented, as well as the fact that no point ever holds complete error or truth, decisions will remain informed and un-naïve.

Upon realizing how far the restriction of individualism stretches, many wonder how one person could possibly change society’s—an entire nation’s—way of thinking. The fact is, we are society. You are society. Society is not an unchangeable foreign entity; rather, the singular members of a society are the only ones capable of changing it. Ever-fluctuating, society ceases to develop in the absence of radical thinkers.

With this in mind, I challenge you to live your own life—a life filled with your passions and dreams, a life not dictated by our current society’s narrow window of successful behaviors.

When it comes down to it, those who hold true success are the individuals willing to perform actions which fail to conform most peoples’ perceptions of success or their way of thinking and acting.

The more you you are, the better. Therefore (unless you believe in reincarnation) this is your only time on earth and there is not a moment to waste on activities dictated by societal pressures.

This is your moment to define yourself and truly succeed.

Jaime Haines is an exuberant puppy-lover and “House” addict and plans to use her psychology degree to encourage activism and well-being through counseling, workshops, speeches, and the written word.