Inspiration, not idolization
Who do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was 4, I wanted to be a Disney princess. I didn't really mind which one; any of them would have satisfied my naÃ¯ve little mind.
Then when I was 9, I wanted to be Mary-Kate Olsen (or Ashley, I'm still not entirely sure). At 13 it was Shakira, and at 15 it was Miley Cyrus.
Did you see anything wrong in that first question? I said who, not what.
Ever since pop culture started infiltrating my life at a young age, I wanted to be someone else. I didn't want to embody their characteristics or the values that they stood for.
I wanted to be them.
And I'm sure I'm not the only one.
But then I started college and realized that it's not right. Our idols shouldn't be people who we want to actually be, but people who hold characteristics that we want to try and emulate to make us better people.
There's a difference between inspiration and idolization. That may be an obvious statement, but it took me until the end of my time at UB to totally understand that distinction. It's an important one.
Let's take BeyoncÃ© as an example. She's beautiful and talented, but she is no more than a woman. And yet society idolizes her as royalty, christening her as Queen Bey and appointing her as the figurehead for a religion.
Yes, The National Church of BeyoncÃ© is a real thing - a registered, official non-profit religion.
There are many stellar qualities that BeyoncÃ© possesses. She's a powerful female, with a healthy physique and an educated social stance. She's controversial, but she picks her battles. But these are qualities that you need to emulate within yourself.
To dream of being another person is futile - college is emblematic of this. We are taught to better ourselves continuously. In order to get to take the next step, to achieve a promotion or to graduate, we need to prove that we have something that others don't. Believe that.
Last Thursday, BeyoncÃ© released the accompanying music video to her powerful song "Pretty Hurts." The video follows BeyoncÃ© as she poses as a beauty pageant contestant, desperate to distort her body until it fits into society's "pretty" mold. She's unhappy, depressed and dangerous.
The message rings throughout the video loud and clear: Stop trying to distort yourself. That message is worth emulating, much more than the woman saying it.
The word "anxiety" is thrown around in blissful ignorance far too often. But by idolizing those who are deemed to be superior, we are contributing to a society with an ever-growing anxiety to be our idols.
So with commencement on the horizon and the vastness of a new reality before you, it's time to define yourself as someone from whom others can take inspiration. Because you will never be Beyonce, Kanye or Kobe.
But your characteristics could be even better if you embrace them.
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