Speaking freely: Standing in your truth

By Qur’an Hansford

When children first leave the comfort of their home to venture out into the world of school, they are embarking on a never ending journey to new experiences, people and knowledge. In the beginning, children are still very much under the close supervision of their parents. They dress you, fix your hair and put you in sports, not because they know what you like but because they believe you are too young to decide for yourself what is best for you. But, when children start to grasp the complex concept of identity and becomes intrigued with learning more about who they may be, should there be restrictions on when and where they are allowed to express themselves?

Of course not.

During childrens’ adolescent years they start to develop a more in-depth sense of self. They start to grow physically, cognitively and emotionally. School and puberty play a big part in the way a teen views their peers and, most importantly, themselves. During this time, adolescents develop a more complex understanding of reason and a stronger sense of self. They start to become curious about their own identity and begin seeking connections other than the ones with their parents. 

This period in teenagers’ lives can become very stressful because it brings new and intense emotions, an increase in independence and responsibility and the desire for new relationships. 

This is when self expression becomes critical. Self-expression allows individuals to be just that, an individual. Self-expression allows people to distinguish themselves from others to fully understand and develop their own beliefs. 

Despite this, many students in college feel discouraged to speak out either in a classroom or socially on campus. A survey conducted on college students by thefire.org concluded that students are more likely to stop themselves from expressing opinions in the classroom for  fear of negative reactions from other students, rather than faculty.
     The survey found that 48 percent of students might censor themselves in the classroom because another student might judge them and 30 percent of students might self-censor in the classroom for fear of offending another student. The results are similar when students step outside the classroom. More than 30 percent of students surveyed said they would refrain from expressing themselves to avoid being politically incorrect for fear of offending. 

Judging by the data, students were hesitant to express themselves either in or outside a college classroom, mainly because they feared what others would think of them. This feeling does not start on a college campus, however. 

At a young age, students are trained to fit in so they won’t be judged for standing out and this crippling anxiety can hinder individuals from being their natural selves even as an adult. 

The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health did research on young adults between the ages 18 and 22 and found that identity is a lifelong process that is molded by life experiences and developments. 

Life experiences and development are the effect of one’s social status characteristics, which then affect adolescent influences between ages 12 and 16, that later influence the profiles of the adult identity. 

Self-expression goes beyond opinions within a lecture. Self-expression is style, from hair to clothes. Self-expression is meant to be a personal display of the truth. Self-expression is, most importantly, courage, whether it is disclosing sexual identity or expressing an unpopular opinion in a classroom. 

College is the place to find that other missing piece of self as you do all throughout life. As people gets older, they figure out a little more about themselves, their likes and dislikes and music taste. 

Life is filled with discovery and as time continues to move forward, you become whole. There is no fitting in when the whole point is to stand out.

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