There are people in this world who are Catholics, yet in a room full of atheists, they will claim there is no God. There are people in this world who are White Sox fans but when you ask them to go to a Cubs game, they will happily wear a blue hat with a red C. There are people in this world who absolutely hate peas, but will eat peas on a first date. There are people in this world that will stay quiet while surrounded by 10 people talking crap about their best friend. There are people in this world that will claim that everything is fine with a tear running down their cheek.
Now, I understand why these people exist. I get why they think the way they do. I understand that some people don’t like conflict, being “impolite” or standing out from the crowd. I commend these people and respect their impeccable manners and ability to alter their views based on circumstances. They are ideological chameleons, changing their colors based on surroundings. In my opinion, these people live a much easier life than people like me.
I am not one of these people.
I am a Catholic that has never denied the existence of a higher being. I was born on the south side with intense Sox pride and I hate the Chicago Cubs. Almost as much as I hate peas. I love my best friends and no one will ever get away with talking badly about them in my presence. And I wear my heart on my sleeve. If I’m unhappy, everyone in the room can tell just by looking at me.
There are people in this world like me. People who know exactly who they are, what they like, what they dislike, what they stand for, and what they will not stand for. Call it stubbornness, call it confidence, call it passion, call it self-awareness, I call it being “unapologetically yourself.”
I am unapologetically myself. My very closest friends are unapologetically themselves. Every guy I have ever dated has been unapologetically himself. I hate them for it sometimes, but I love them for it all the time.
I am attracted to people that stand behind a belief, no matter how small. I am attracted to people who are confident in their values. I am attracted to honesty and pure emotions. I am attracted to the people who swim upstream, the trailblazers, the people whose voices shake when they go on rants, the people whose silence is chilling, the people whose emotions can be felt from 20 feet away. I am attracted to unwavering individuality and sense of self. I am attracted to people who don’t eat their peas because, damn it, they don’t want to.
I knew a boy once. He didn’t believe in wearing cologne. He only wore deodorant. Because, A) He didn’t like the smell of cologne and B) He didn’t think that people should like him because he smelled like a Calvin Klein model. At first, I rolled my eyes and called him a jackass. But now that I think about it, I get it. On some level, it was symbolic. He didn’t want to mask himself with something artificial. On another level, I respected that he stood for something so unique. He was the only guy I knew who didn’t own a single bottle of cologne and that was attractive. He was being himself. Unapologetically.
It seems to me that the chameleons very seldom understand people who are firm in their beliefs. They don’t get it. My aunt once said to me, “Why would you wear a Sox hat to a Cubs game?” To which I simply replied, “Because I’m a Sox fan.” Her parting words were, “Try not to get beat up.” I winked.
I have learned that you pay a price for being yourself.
1. People can label you easier.
“The republican,” “the democrat,” “the vegetarian,” “the Jew,” “the kid who has some weird vendetta against cologne.” Just because you feel so strongly about something, people will find it easier to place generalizations on you. The one time you voice an opinion has the potential to turn into your identity.
2. People will make assumptions about you.
“He’s gay so I doubt he wants to go to the football game.” “She feels strongly about underage drinking so let’s not invite her out with us.” “She’s a Catholic so don’t mention anything about my birth control.” That’s not fair. People hold beliefs, sure. This doesn’t mean that stereotypes apply to them. Gay men like football. Girls who don’t drink still like to go out on Friday. Catholics use birth control.
3. People will call you stubborn or hard headed.
I am not stubborn. I am passionate. I refuse to change my beliefs on certain issues because I feel so passionately about them. However, I have a very open mind. I listen to opinions and input. In fact, I ask for advice more than anyone else I know. Now, whether I alter my beliefs based on your opinion, input, or advice is another story. Some people just know exactly who they are or who they want to be. They shouldn’t be punished for that. Don’t confuse someone having confidence in themselves with stubbornness.
4. People will not like your confidence.
Story time. One of my best friends is a Biology major. She’s a vegetarian that loves organic vegetables, almond butter, and yoga. Everyone who knows her wants to be just like her, take my word for it. But she told me a story one time that really pissed me off. She was sitting in one of her nerdy science classes one day when the professor brought up genetically modified foods. He asked the class if anyone was against genetic modification in meats and produce. Naturally (pun intended), my beautiful yogi friend raises her hand. As she looked around the room, she was the only one with her hand raised. Then, her jaw dropped. The professor singled her out and started mocking her, claiming she knew nothing about genetic modification because it “wasn’t that bad for you.” She stayed confident and tried to prove him wrong for as long as she could. But he’s got a PhD and she just has something she believes in. She told me this later that day with a look of defeat on her face. The whole rest of the semester, that same professor would call her out for other things and give her unfair grades on assignments. All because she decided to be unapologetically herself. You know what that’s called? Bullshit. She could’ve stayed quiet and not raised her hand. She probably would’ve done better in the class. But instead she decided to stick up for herself, no matter how stupid she felt. And I love her for that. Some people are intimidated by confidence, it’s human nature. Be confident anyway. You’ll be signing those people’s paychecks one day.
If you are a person who is unapologetically yourself, I salute you.
Now, listen up because I have good news and bad news.
The bad news: It’s not easy to be you. You will have altercations with people, face resistance, feel disillusioned, lose friends, gain enemies, and notice that people will try (and sometimes succeed at) bringing you down.
The good news: We are a minority. Most people in this world will not stand up in a room of 100 people who all believe in the same thing and dare to say, “I disagree.” And that, my friends, is a powerful thing. Do not let the world smother the fire under your passions, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.
Being unapologetically yourself comes with a price. Always pay it.