Essay by badrymzHigh School, 12th gradeA, March 2004

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There is a saying that, "The nail that sticks out will be hammered down." Society tries to place many rules on us as individuals as to what is acceptable and what is not. We must decide for ourselves whether to conform to such a social decorum. We are taught as soon as we are old enough to grasp the idea that it is bad to be unique and to avoid being different. Sure, you'll hear people say "be yourself" but what many of them are saying (especially authoritative figures) are that there are standards that you need to keep. To explain this, there are posted speed limits on the road. You can go about five miles per hour above the speed limit, but if you don't stay within the limits you get some sort of penalty. In the real world if we are speeding ahead of everyone with our own ideas we will be ticketed with the idea that we are out of place.

At some point, however, we must decide within ourselves whether to spend every day trying to be like everyone else because society says we should, or to live each day true to ourselves. Our strength as a person is proven through what we decide. E. E. Cummings once said, "To be nobody but yourself-in a world which is doing it's best night and day to make you like everyone else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting." The benefits of being true to ourselves greatly outweigh any negative aspects of choosing that path.

One of the most obvious advantages of being true to ourselves is that people will see us, perhaps for the first time, without a mask. People will see what we are really like on the...