Everyday, whenever we turn on the TV and watch our favorite shows or listen to today's music, we find ourselves bombarded with different ideals.
Covertly inserted into the thousands of frames that are displayed to our eyes, there is no end to the amount of ways that society tries to force-feed us their beliefs – from the songs of artists from all genres of music to the style in how news is relayed to us.
On top of that, we have the people that we directly interact with – our friends, classmates and professors – as another potential source of "intruding" opinions. When we look closely at these we see contradictions all across the board.
There is no end to the amount of times that we are told to believe one thing, but another person tells us something differently. In either case, the arguments seem to make sense. What, then, should we believe in?
Take, for example, the concept of one's self. Most of us would agree that a person should love who he or she is and be his or herself.
There should be no pressure to be someone else, to cater to the likes and whims of other people. We hear of numerous situations where people are forced to change themselves in order to fit into society and gain acceptance with the people or environment they live in. It's not a dramatic, fictional situation – it does happen to people, and much more often than most of us realize.
I myself did the same when I first came to the United States.
I lived a good portion of my life as a military brat, spending my childhood growing up in Japan and Guam. After my father had orders to come to the U.S., we followed.
Up to that point, I had spent most of my life in two cultures, each of which I easily assimilated into.
In Japan, it helped that I looked like many of the other children – whenever my family and I traveled off the military base, I was assumed to be Japanese, which made interactions with the ethnically Japanese much easier. On base, diversity and respect were heavily emphasized, both through words and actions. When my family moved to the U.S., however, everything changed.
Middle school was a horrific time for me thanks to my differences, such as my short height, physical features and a lack of other Asians at the school.
I was picked on often. Fights were commonplace, always ending in a terrible loss for me. Everyday life was difficult, and it seemed there was no hope for me. However, thanks to such an experience, I was able to recognize how to change myself to fit in.
Looking back, I still wonder if it was right or wrong to change myself. It's a hard question to answer, though. On one hand, it appears wrong that I had to change myself just to fit in. Yet, on the other, stating that it was right or wrong seems irrelevant. In the end, I did what I had to do in order to persevere. I don't regret the choice.
Whenever society tries to advocate ideals, people are eager to join the bandwagon, saying why one stance is right when compared to other viewpoints. They may have good intentions, but more often than not they don't educate themselves fully and end up completely getting sidetracked from the real goal.
It wasn't long ago when people began raising concerns about body size and how models were too thin. Though the concerns arose as a worry for their health, it quickly went overboard. Strangely enough, those who were thin found themselves criticized for how they looked. Previously, there had been the same stigma against those who were overweight and obese.
You would think society would have learned to not discriminate and denounce a group of people for who they were. And yet, here we are seeing them do the same mistake again but to a different group.
Whether we like it or not, we are part of a society that is full of good and bad ideals. The line between both sides is not solid – it is blurred.
Society may have good intentions sometimes, but it can easily lose sight of the goal. In the previous case, society should have learned from its prior mistake in ostracizing a certain group but instead only repeated it.
Sometimes, we should stop questioning what is right and wrong and focus on what we must do. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves continuously questioning if we should have jumped on the bandwagon, too, and do what others have done instead of doing what we personally believe we should do.
Whether it's changing yourself to fit in or attempting to stay the same, what that entails cannot be seen as right or wrong.
The only thing we're allowed to do is to believe that we won't regret the choices we've made.
Jan Urbano is a senior in biological sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.