Trade Our Shoes and Walk a Thousand Miles


Colleen Burke, Staff Writer

On a particularly cold and dreary day, many things seemed more interesting to me than the drones of my teacher: the rain took my mind somewhere far away from the classroom. It inspired a somewhat nostalgic and heartfelt thought of those around me. I would glance around the classroom, not only to pretend I was paying attention, but to evaluate my peers.

Some looked wholeheartedly into the conversation and task at hand, but others seemed to have their minds engrossed in something else, much like myself. As my eyes panned across the room, I noticed a disturbing similarity in what people wore and said – the amount of uniform and conformity this public school had didn’t seem quite right. I looked down at my own clothes and I realized what I was wearing: almost exactly what everyone else was.

The pressures that the media places on teenagers are immense, but in all honesty it’s our very own friends and classmates that make us so terribly self-conscious. The harsh reality is that we inflict trashy clothes, makeup, and eating disorders on ourselves to make us feel like we’re worth something and give us hope that maybe someone will look at us today.

Now what I’m not going to say is be true and embrace who you are for just the way you are. Although that’s a good way of life, it’s much easier said than done. I can’t stress enough that if you feel you aren’t good enough, resorting to distorting your body or changing yourself in an unhealthy way will simply lead to a significantly worse outlook on your life.

Through fairy tales we hear as children, we are conditioned to think that if we sit around and wait, one day our prince will come, but of course only for those beautiful and skinny characters with amazing voices and kind dispositions. As we grow older, we are presented with images of the “perfect body” or “perfect symmetrical face” and we begin to compare ourselves to those impossible figures, gradually feeling as if we are inadequate.

In truth, the only way to really be inadequate is to allow the constant bombardment of objectifying images and terrible role models get into your head and make you feel worthless. It is immensely important to look above all that and realize that just because you don’t look like Jessica Alba or aren’t as “popular” as some of your peers, you aren’t as important or don’t have as much meaning. What has real meaning is the measurement of not your waist, bust size or how many friends you have, but how you feel about yourself and how you carry out your life.

As cliche as it is, you must be yourself. To those who are actually able to do this, I applaud you, wishing that I had the guts to show the world who I actually am and not be so afraid of constant judging. I have been raised in a society where people expect me to be quiet and polite and a perfect daughter, not so much to speak my mind. Although my mother always said to me that I should say my opinions, when it does happen I am often frowned upon.

It almost disgusts me to see the conflicting nature of our society – everyone says it’s okay to be different, but when someone is, they are looked at as if they are different creatures that one can’t understand. If you reach out to those amazing people who live for themselves you may find yourself envious of their love of what they are and what they do. There solidarity in who they are, no question in how they act or who their true friends are. Three good friends are better than ten fake ones. Some of these unique individuals may not be totally happy, they may be unstable or depressed, but that doesn’t reflect them in themselves. These feelings are often due to the prosecution they face and being ignored by our treacherous society that sticks out their tongues at what they don’t know; at what isn’t “normal.”

If people became more accepting, there would be a significant depletion of eating disorders, body mutations, and depression. There would be an amazing amount of people emulating the individual and becoming what they are in their heart and minds – not what they feel they must be.

It’s hard for me to see people go through things and think that they are alone, no one understands, or no one notices so there is nothing to resort to but pain. But these people are not nearly as empty and alone as they think – even people who we see as “perfect” have issues, sometimes much worse than we could imagine. These experiences of despair, although terrible to go through, can make someone more powerful and self sustaining. They have dealt with and lived through something and now can move on and grow. That is what makes someone truly great and someone right to look up to.

Tears roll down my face when I recall my own horrifying experiences, not necessarily out of self pity or sadness, but more so out of pride for overcoming something that gave me the potential to self destruct. I know for a fact that anyone has the capacity to thrive off of their own misgivings, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s possible at the time. Take no pills, use no knife, stop yourself from eating no more – take a pen and a paper and write, draw, sing. Do whatever gets you through it and makes you happy. Don’t let an event or feeling define who you are and what you will become, leave that up to your future that you still have ahead and shouldn’t ever take away. As a person, you are important and special even when you don’t feel you are smart, beautiful, or skinny enough.

So I give props to those who express their individuality, and those who don’t hide their misfortunes, and especially those who have overcome an experience. You are someone to look up to as a role model. You are someone who should be presented to children all over the world so they no longer have the skewed version of perfect and what women should be. You are my idea of perfect.