I AM WHO I AM

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“There comes a time when you have to stand up and shout: This is me damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love! I am a whole package. Take me or leave me. Accept me or walk away! Do not try to make me feel like less of a person, just because I don’t fit your idea of who I should be and don’t try to change me to fit your mould. If I need to change, I alone will make that decision.When you are strong enough to love yourself 100 per cent, good and bad, you will be amazed at the opportunities that life presents you.”
-Stacey Charter

Consider this: You see a guy hooked onto some addiction. Most likely, the first word that springs to mind is ‘hopeless’. He is one of the many who has picked up the habit, albeit unknowingly. His life may well be hanging by a cliff. But to society, he is perceived differently. To them, he is the epitome of all that is wrong with youth today, who in their opinion, waste time and act rebelliously foolish.
Or for that matter, consider a person who is gay. He worries about being accepted. Or even a person who has been through her parents’ divorce and leads a lonely existence. Somewhere within, she too craves for acceptance. The same goes for a person who has been sexually abused and who fears that he has forever been blemished. Or someone who has been overshadowed for the better part of their life by a sibling or friend.What must these people really feel like?

The Right View?
The youth are assumed to be so many things. Yet, the judgement pronounced on them, does it find any takers within their own crowd? They know best who they are. Young, vibrant and impatient, the new generation is a mixed bag from all segments of society. In spite of differences that set them apart, there’s a common spirit that yearns for change.
Reckless, fast-paced and confident, they believe in what they feel is right. Respect for society’s norms may very well be imbibed in their value system, but they ensure that it doesn’t burden them. Standing up to what they feel is right, that’s a part of their DNA. Although old generations would term this attitude as self-obsessed thinking, self-belief is the word that the youth would identify with. This is just another instance that emphasises one of their underlying traits. It’s called being different and yet, being yourself.
Let’s face it. The rift in the beliefs of the old and new generation is as big as ever. A western outlook towards life and the youthful motto of working hard and partying even harder is a trademark of the current generation. The youth of today are a focussed and goal-driven lot who ooze oodles of confidence. That confidence stems from a belief in themselves, their potential and an acceptance of who they are and where they come from.

The Differently Abled
Yet another issue faced by the young crowd who suffer from being termed ‘disabled’ are the ones who are physically challenged, blind or may have some form of a learning disability. The individuals suffering from disabilities constitute about 2.13 per cent of India’s total population. Known as differently-abled, to restore the dignity that they rightly deserve, such individuals have a tough call, simultaneously dealing with a disability and leading a respectable life. They arouse a feeling of sympathy from others and we more often than not, term them unfortunate. However, it is the way they view themselves and respond to their issues is what keeps them going. In this regard, it’s encouraging to see that the earlier emphasis from medical rehabilitation has now shifted to social rehabilitation for such people.

The Radicals
The youth of the country are a radically different breed who yearn to differentiate from the ‘usual’. To them, identity is a coherent part of their existence and anything that encroaches upon it is firmly dealt with. The increasing awareness and acceptance of the LGBT community is a case in point. Once viewed as taboo, homosexuality has largely come out of the closet. This can be attributed to the efforts of the young generation that values self-expression and self-acceptance, refusing to bend before what they perceive as unfair.

The ‘Me’ Factor
The quest for identity ultimately boils down to–the fundamental question of ‘Who am I?’ The typical youth fumbles and fights with his inner thoughts. There is confusion about what constitutes right and wrong or who are the right people to hang out with. Should all that has been termed ‘uncool’ be followed or dumped? Should one suppress the fact that their identity deviates from the masses?

Finding One’s Identity
The identity of the Indian youth is based on a complex interplay of factors such as culture, socio-economic status, fashion, traditions, spirituality and family. As per one survey, 74 per cent of Indians considered it important how their families thought they were doing. In today’s world, an individual’s aspirations are centre stage. Although different in many aspects, a typical youngster would fail to understand what the fuss about his identity is all about. Problems will always arise with the clash of the new and old generations. But today, these differences are glaring. It is clear that acceptance of the current generation requires a different view altogether. We accept in the manner which has been taught to us. Society has imposed on us many a limitation and our fragmented outlook simply highlights our plight. A stereotyped view has been cast on our thinking and we continue to preach it. Reasons ranging from the acceptable to the ridiculous are invoked. Those unfortunate to fall in this line of fire have to lead a compromised existence.

Acceptance
Accepting the way one is, is perhaps the hardest thing to do. Members of stigmatised groups in society can vouch for that. For the youth, it can be particularly traumatic. They are at the threshold of entering the real world and are bombarded by a host of issues that plague their consciousness. The rising tide of individualism, excess freedom, effects of westernisation and a flawed system; the blame can be pinned on any or all of these factors. But undermining the cause doesn’t help the youth who are struggling to come to terms with their identity. The average youth copes with issues that can be taxing to say the least. Look around and you will find that those who are young and ought to be enjoying life to the fullest are the ones who appear to be the most distressed. According to one estimate, about 80 per cent of youth who suffer from depression go on to commit suicide. It’s an alarming phenomena and a very unfortunate state of affairs.
Stress related to academics, careers and peer pressure are the most common issues that the youth face. However, one issue that seems to have escaped our collective thinking is their quest for identity and acceptance.
Self-belief is a mantra that most speakers and gurus swear by and this connects well with the current lot of youth. They may be assumed immature or irresponsible but they take any problem thrown at them as a heads-on task. It is self-belief that propels them and motivates them to achieve the impossible. It may be perceived as arrogant, rigid and self-stuck thinking but the youth of today can be trusted to draw a fine balance between what is right and what is accepted as right. Their beliefs, their views and their behaviour; it’s a part of them that is integral only to them.

The Voice of the Youth Counts
It’s in acceptance that truly lies happiness. A country that claims to care for its youth should make sure that its youth are not stressed out and live a life comfortable in their skin even if their identity doesn’t conform to society’s idealist settings. Only then will the youth be happy. Ultimately, a broader outlook will seep into society, resulting in a happier state of affairs.
Any leader worth his salt will vouch for the fact that it’s the youth who are the future of any country. They epitomise everything young, wild and crazy, but with a strong sense of self-belief in their abilities and potential. It’s their self-belief that guides them. Yet, beneath those layers of confidence, there lies a small part that hopes for acceptance.

Self-belief is a mantra that most speakers and gurus swear by and this connects well with youth today

Volume 2 Issue 1

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