Whitlam Institute
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What Matters 2017 Finalist Entries

What Matters? Finalists 2017

2017 What Matters? NSW/ACT Year 5/6 Runner Up

 
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Being Yourself Matters!

SYDNEY BAO

Artarmon Public School

She was everything a teenage girl wanted to be – a model student, beautiful, popular. Daily, she changed herself into a person that fitted perfectly with the views of society. No one knew what was underneath her disguise because she hid it so well. She wore a mask, a mask hiding her true thoughts, true feelings, true self.

The girl, who listened to pop music, wore shorts, and chewed gum all day was just an act to impress her friends. But when she escaped to the isolation of her room, away from the prying eyes of her classmates, another person emerged. One who was the exact opposite of Little Miss Perfect.

There was always a raging war between the real her and the one that was a puppet, controlled by her friends. Every time she went out for coffee or a movie with her peers, the “true girl” was tucked away, out of reach until she went home. Her smile was someone else’s, deceiving and fake. Her friends had made her so self-conscious to her clothes, her food choices, her habits, that she no longer trusted her own opinion. She felt insecure with her being, that her friends would laugh or desert her if she showed who she truly was.

She felt constantly alone and vulnerable. What if she let something slip? Something that suggested it wasn’t the latest trend, or the best brand? She gradually crumbled like a biscuit under the pressure her peers burdened her with. She wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, after all.

She ended her life a few days later, becoming one of the 69 teenagers in every 1 000 000 who commit suicide because of peer pressure each year.

Over the last five years, children negatively affected by peer pressure between the ages of 7 – 11 has increased from 10% to 40%. In a recent survey by Love to Know it was found that 55% of teenagers who tried drugs for the first time were encouraged to do so by their peers. It isn’t right that people bully, bribe or blackmail you into doing something you find uncomfortable. You need to be yourself regardless of what your friends say. After all, are they really your friends if they don’t know or accept who you truly are?

Children living and acting someone else’s life, or being influenced by peer pressure, is one of the biggest crisis in my generation. Of course global warming and pollution matter, but to solve greater problems, we must first cure the epidemic that is affecting the minds that will soon take over in leading our world. The minds of teenagers. Too many of them are living someone else’s life, mainly for the sake of impressing their friends. We have to show them that their opinions are much more important than their friends’, and that diversity is the spice of life. That being themselves, matters.

So what matters? To me, staying true to who you are, ignoring the views of society and never being afraid to do what you feel is right. It’s what’s inside you that matters, not what you are on the outside. What matters to me is to be yourself. I, for one, would rather everyone know who I am, even if they don’t accept it, than to have them know how well I can pretend.

“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends,” from Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stine.

Jenna Beck