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“We live in a society...” where social pressures are increasingly magnified, not by social media itself, but by the way we choose to use it. Technology is making our personal lives increasingly more transparent, thus exposing more and more of our personal little secrets. And as this trend continues to mold our culture, people, especially the younger generations, will be more and more tempted to center their lives around social approval rather than ethics, morality, or any objective standard of right and wrong. This is a fate for the weak minded, and the weak-willed. Those of us who fail take control over our own minds are those of us who will be the most miserable in life. A system is only as strong as the sum of its parts, not the inverse. The parts do not and cannot derive their structural integrity from the overall strength of the system. An individual never derives his strength from that of the group, but rather the strength of the group derives from the individuals which it is composed of. For this reason it is important for each of us to take the time to know ourselves—to know what we want, where we came from, who we are, who we want to be, and how to achieve that.
It begins with a process called “introspection.” Introspection is the act of looking inward for answers, of questioning your thoughts, feelings, habits, intentions, character, and personality until there is nothing left to ask, and you know everything about your current self. And yes, I do say “current” self, because by “self” I mean our current psychological iteration. People’s psychology (and thus personality) change as they age and experience new things. However I do believe that a part of us stays the same throughout our life, an “inner core” to our personality if you will. It is my belief that the better you can understand this “inner core,” the better you can embrace, and become a more well-rounded and adaptable person, sooner rather than later. People in their late twenties and early thirties often talk about how different they are now then when they were a teenager. They are often highly embarrassed by their former self and seem to think, “How could I have been so naïve?” Quite frankly I despise this phenomenon. I think it reflects how poorly our modern culture equips us for adulthood. While cultural criticisms of how we raise our kids can certainly be made, I believe that its issues surrounding how society deals with the adolescents is a much more pressing issue. Our childhood may in some way forever influence who we are, but it's during our teenage years that we begin to determine our own destiny by how we choose to develop our hearts and minds. During our adolescent years we simultaneously become more conscious of ourselves and our surroundings. Our emotions become more intense and often overwhelming. But this period of growth is not a plague; it has a purpose, it gives us an opportunity to expand our minds, and develop our character by allowing us to perceive things with an emotional depth that most of us will never experience again. If more parents taught their teens how to analyze their complex emotions, rather than telling them about how temporary and meaningless they are, and if high schools allowed teenagers to truly explore their interests, express themselves, and learn to think for themselves, then ¾ of the problem would be solved (I’ll cover those issues in a future paper). Furthermore, If young people, especially teenagers, would not get caught up in trying to chase social trends and other forms of meaningless superficiality, but instead would take the time to develop their own opinions about pressing existential matters (i.e. god, the origin of life, and the universe, objectivity vs subjectivity, the nature of good and evil, etc.), while learning how to be honest with themselves, they would set themselves on a better track for self-development. Understanding and developing a personal opinion on life’s most fundamental questions is the first step to becoming truly independent-minded, and no person who thinks for himself lacks individualism. This is because individualism is not how we express ourselves, or even how we conduct ourselves, but rather a state and strength of mind in which our actions are not determined by the pressures of outside forces, but by our own internal moral and ethical convictions. Additionally, I believe that individualism is directly related to maturity, self-confidence, and understanding one’s own personality, as well as his or her relationship with society. The relationship between individualism and maturity is that a person’s level of maturity is reflected within their level of individualism, but not vice versa. The two are most certainly intertwined, but it is maturity that leads to individualism, not individualism that leads to maturity. This is because a person’s level of maturity is dependent upon how well they know themselves. Individualism reflects maturity, because individualism is the expression of how well one knows, and is comfortable with him or herself. In order to convey what I mean by maturity, I will define a mature person as one who is humble enough so that he is able to learn well in order to better himself, and therefore be able and willing to help others. This of course involves knowing yourself well enough to consciously decide whether or not you are satisfied with your existing character. The consequences of not knowing yourself are that it inhibits you from fully maturing, which greatly affects both your social and academic life, and it keeps you from knowing what you truly want, which prevents you from obtaining true and lasting happiness.
Of course, these goals are not possible to obtain without self-confidence. Self-confidence is not only the belief that you can do something, but also the belief that you will do something. It is an engine fueled by past accomplishments whose output is motivation, which is in turn harnessed by the ever efficient human mind order to make future accomplishments so that the cycle may continue. Self-confidence has a great effect on life, and is an essential part of individualism. Individualism would literally be impossible without self-confidence, for a severe lack of self-confidence is characterized by a sociological phenomenon often called “herd-mentality,” which in simple terms is the fear of rejection by society as a direct result of opposing the status quo. “Herd-mentality” has a negative effect on society because it prevents society from progressing philosophically as well as technologically. This is the result we get when creativity is suppressed by stamping out individualism, which is effectively done by lowering self-confidence through the fear of extreme rejection. Creativity, being derived from individualism, allows for societal progression within every aspect of life. In my opinion it is the responsibility of each generation to progress society in this manner, so that life is even more enjoyable for the next generation. Individualism is valuable to a society, because it permits and stimulates creativity, which in turn leads to invention and the progression of philosophy, which are both equally great contributions to the ultimate goal of each generation.
In order for society to progress there must be true creativity, and for that to come there must be true individualism, which stems from self-confidence, that itself is a direct product of maturity, which is a result of knowing oneself well enough to improve oneself, and of developing a respect and appreciation for others which motivates you to help them. So please do yourself and your neighbors a favor, understand who you are, what kind of person you truly want to be, and remember individualism is the key to prosperity. KNOW THYSELF