Sixteen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg recently replied to her critics via social media: “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!”

Thunberg continued, “I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And, given the right circumstances, being different is a superpower.”

The fact is, there will be no shortage of people in the world ready to tell you who to be, what to do, and what to believe.

Yet now is an especially great time in life for you to start exploring for yourself the kind of person you want to be and what you believe in.

What is it you value in life? What will you stand for? And what won’t you stand for? Discovering this will likely be a process of trial and error. It may just start as small as noticing what things in life stir your emotions.

As evidenced by Thunberg, people who are “a bit different” often feel pressured to fall back within the society’s norms to make those around them feel more comfortable.

Yet this is rarely how positive change occurs. Too often others try to shame us for what makes us different. This can lead us to hide, mask, or act in ways we really do not want to. It takes a great amount of strength to be authentic and to stand up and speak up for what you believe in.

Doing so requires taking a risk. It is likely you will make mistakes and there is no guarantee that things will always turn out the way you want them to.

That is where courage comes in, and that is also where you learn and grow. If you find yourself needing support in this process, come visit us at the Student Counseling Center.

As you embark on this new academic year, let this not be a column that tells you what you should do or how you should be, but one that encourages you to be more you.

Even if you do not feel it, your voice matters, your actions matter and you matter.

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