Youth day… Wow. It is a day for youths to go out and celebrate with others. Time to see friends from other schools. March beautifully. Enjoy traditional dances from different strata of our country. Listen to wonderful music from different choral groups. While this was the expectation of many, others had different agendas and issues so powerful.
Karis, a 16-year-old was just as excited about the youth day as everyone. She too was excited to go experience all these things but this was never the case with her. So many times, she will talk herself out of it. She felt she did not measure up and did not have what it took to enjoy the day. She had no friends and was so uncomfortable being in her own skin. To her, the fact she was plus size and a dark-skinned girl did not give her the right to friends. She said, “So many times at the field while others go to meet up with friends, I am always left alone. It’s like when we get to the field, my friends immediately dump me for others. Worst is the fact that I don’t have friends from other schools. Also, I am not as beautiful as the other girls.” This thought of being mediocre followed her for a long time and so she decided to change it.
This youth day, she was in Lower Sixth and decided to make a difference. She started doing all she could to appeal to others.
The question is who is she trying to please and for what reason?
While her reasons were questionable, this did not stop her from going on with her plan.
By the youth day, she had gone to slim up her uniforms and learn to do some makeup on her self all in a bit to appeal. Now at the field, she was noticed by so many. So many came to talk to her. For the first time, she felt accepted, loved and beautiful. She was amazed that she could get the attention of the guys. This excitement alone made her give in sexually to a man just to keep up appearances. Well, she kept all the appearances but not for too long as her uniforms will not fit. She was back in her trance. “What is going on with me?” She wondered. She will often catch herself sleeping during class hours and easily nauseated. She affirmed to herself daily that she had malaria. But what sort of malaria did she have that came on every morning? Malaria that made her gain weight instead of losing it! For about a month she struggled to understand what was happening. Always absent-minded in class and lost in thoughts. The thought of pregnancy crossed her mind but she dismissed it without second guessing it. One day in literature class, she was out of herself as usual. The teacher who had noticed her severally began to ask questions. When she revealed that she had been sick a while, the teacher insisted she got proper care. The teacher volunteered to take her to the hospital. After consulting and running some tests, it was confirmed that she was pregnant. The teacher who always saw her as one of her outstanding students was so disappointed. For the first time, it actually hit her. The look on Mrs Goban’s face left her with this thought “You are a failure.”
“What have I been doing? Was this change necessary? How did I let myself get to this point? Pregnancy? How will my parents take this? And what of the friends I fought so hard to impress, what will they think of me?”
While this might have been her real worry, she was still asking the wrong questions as she kept thinking about how her decisions will affect those around her more than how it will affect her. She had an issue with self-identity.
Let’s talk about self:
Self is the subject of one’s own experience of phenomena, perception, emotions thoughts.
Self-identity: The perception or recognition of one’s characteristics as a particular individual, especially in relation to social context. It is basically who you make out yourself to be. What are your boundaries, what are your values, how far can you go for a particular course? While all this is important, it’s important to know self to decide on self.
What and who influences self?
Is it the girl next to you? Is it family and friends? Or the media? Whatever this influence might be it’s important for self to be influenced by self-identity. For this to happen, as a youth you ought to take a long deep look into who you are and why you make the choices you make.
We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in a struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others—our parents, for instance—and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live.
While this may be the case we ought not to invest in this conversation and plunge into a sea of confusion. Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins to the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives.
The case of Karis could have been avoided if she knew self and stood for self. It’s ok to admire another and not to love the whole you. But it’s important to note if you do not accept your entire package how will a spouse or the person next to you accept this package?
Self-identity leads to self-acceptance. When you know self, the next important thing is to accept self. Though related, self-acceptance is not the same as self-esteem. Whereas self-esteem refers specifically to how valuable, or worthwhile, we see ourselves, self-acceptance alludes to a far more global affirmation of self. When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves–not just the positive, more “esteem-able” parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses, limitations, and foibles, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves.
I think self-acceptance is great because when you realize your humanity, you start recognizing it in others and stop putting impossible expectations on them, and yourself.
Right now there is a girl or boy struggling with self. It’s up to me and you. Help them understand and accept self. This is the only way we can make progress and have a better youth day.
By Fozao Mbi Vanessa