Individualism, its importance and the unfortunate pitfalls

Individualism is one of the most important things we have as human beings, as well as finding out who we are through our opinions, morals, religious and political views we make statements about who we are through our clothes, music, hobbies and interests too. World Goth Day was a few days ago and it is a day where we can and should celebrate individualism and subcultures, though it is specific to goths it also shines a light on all subcultures and how important these are to people’s lives.

Though there are downfalls to expressing who you are. Bullying has unfortunately become something of the norm at schools these days and over the past few years it has stemmed outside of schools with online bullying having increased drastically in recent years. Around 30-40% of teenagers report being bullied at school every year with a lot more unreported cases inside and outside school happening too. Bullying has become a major problem.

In 2007, a couple was attacked just because they did not look like or wear the same clothes as their attackers. The girl, Sophie Lancaster, died and her boyfriend was in a coma but luckily he survived. From that horrible attack and tragic death the Sophie Lancaster foundation was set up with the aim of creating respect and understanding for subcultures that exist within our community. The foundation has over the years worked tirelessly for that aim all in Sophie’s memory and in many ways it seems like they are making a difference.

Police in Manchester have started to record hate crimes against goths, emos and other subcultures and over the past couple of months they have made a couple of arrests. The campaign in Sophie’s name has received so much backing from magazines (Kerrang!), celebrities, companies (Illamasqua), festivals (Bloodstock) and MP’s and days such as World Goth Day all help the cause of promoting the understanding of individuality among people.

Subcultures are targeted because in some way they are different to other groups of people. But just because somebody does not listen to the same music as you, for example, it is not a reason to bully them, people are free to choose what music they want to listen to and we should respect their choices.

Some magazines, the internet and the media only helps to drive bullying when it tells us what we should and shouldn’t be doing and usually creating an unrealistic and unobtainable image of perfect. These articles, which are read by teenagers, target differences and imperfections so there is no wonder some teenagers are getting picked on for just being themselves. The big issue is that bullying, especially about things such as weight and appearance, can trigger problems that carry on into later life such as depression and eating disorders.

If everybody was meant to look and act the same then individuality would be a pointless concept as no-one could ever fulfill it. Individuality is a great thing and it is important that we define who we are. As a teenager I found it difficult to be myself without some backlash from others but since I have gotten into my 20’s I have grown to appreciate the things that make me who I am a lot more.

The one thing that we can do to stop bullying is to accept each other for who we are and stop judging others because they are different to ourselves. We need to encourage people to be themselves but in an image conscious media driven culture can that ever really happen? Right now it seems not and that is really sad as your teenage years should be the time to not be scared about experimenting and trying to find out exactly who you are.

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