Rebecca Del Rossi, Prevention Coordinator
The theme for July’s newsletter is “Free to Be You”. This phrase evokes patriotic imagery for some around the Fourth of July, especially since our nation just celebrated its 249th year of independence. For this month’s Compassion Project, I want to explore what “Free to be You” means on the individual level. Each one of us has the power to be a unique and complicated person. However, there can be certain social norms that make it easier or harder for some people to be themselves.
Social norms are unwritten rules and ideas of what behavior is acceptable in our society. For example, children learn early on in elementary school that they need to raise their hands before speaking. Over time, this becomes an unspoken norm so by the time that these children get into high school and perhaps college, it is almost an automatic reaction. Norms can shape our thoughts, actions and behaviors.
My role of Prevention Coordinator is to engage youth and other young people about topics such as healthy relationships, spotting abusive relationships and how to help a friend. These conversations can range from challenging to rewarding to really fun. I’ve learned a lot from the people I’ve worked with, particularly regarding the challenges of being yourself in this day and age.
Although it can sometimes be hard to spot, there are norms that make some people less free to be themselves. For example, if a young boy cries on the playground he might be called a “sissy” or a “baby” by his friends, or his teacher will tell him to “man up”. These words teach boys from a very young age that it is not alright for boys or men to cry. In my work I have heard young men express frustration with the narrow social norms prescribed to them, particularly regarding their ability to show emotions and vulnerability. To learn more about how social norms effect all of us, watch the documentaries The Mask You Live In and Missrepresentation by the Representation Project.
I am going to leave you all with this: how can we show up for each other for people to live authentically? By showing compassion and empathy.
Social norms can dictate how we dress, wear our hair, show our emotions, and how we act around others. It can be hard to feel like you do not belong because you do not fit into a prescribed social norm. But in reality, are any of us perfect? We all have our quirks and traits that make us unique outside of social norms. Imagine what the world would look like if we celebrated differences and individuality. We each should be free to be ourselves, even if that varies greatly person to person. I believe practicing compassion and empathy can achieve that world.
The Compassion Project: Let us be the ones who transform our world by allowing compassion to lead our action. Throughout the year, this column will feature the various ways to have compassion for others, for our specific organization, and for yourself.
Back to Blog >>