I’ve struggled with anxiety for years. The main source of it has always been school, as I have a problem of equating my worth to my grades. I feel like this is a pretty common problem among high-achieving students, particularly here at Yale. But this post is not about that. Luckily, I reached a point where I realized a good grade is never worth sacrificing my health. And for the most part, I maintain low stress levels by reminding myself that. Unfortunately, anxiety has manifested in a new place in my life. It started around the time I started college, and that’s probably not a coincidence. Often, the most stressful part of my day is when I open Facebook and start scrolling.
Now, if you scroll through my page, you’ll mostly find cute animal videos, pictures of me and my boyfriend Justin, Tasty videos, and posts between me and my best friend Mikaela: pretty tame content. However, occasionally, I’ll share something reflecting my ideological views. These are rare though, and I basically never write my own post sharing any of these views (although I have in the past, but I’ll get to that in a minute).
Here’s the problem; I often see things that I immediately want to share, but I rarely do. My first thought anytime I’m hovering over the share (or even the like button) is “who is going to see this?” And my answer to myself is never “like-minded people who will appreciate this” or “open-minded people who will view this and respect my opinion and maybe even change theirs”. Growing up in the south and moving to the north for school has given me a diverse list of friends with a wide range of ideological views. I am constantly hyper aware of this, and as a result am often terrified of being attacked or offending others.
This makes me sound like a big sissy who has been bullied into being politically correct instead of honest, I know. Here’s the thing though, once you post something on the internet, it’s there forever. I’m only 19, and I know that my views will inevitably change as they have in the past. I read some of my old posts from different phases I went through in middle and high school and feel some intense regret. Not just because I was an embarrassing, immature teenager (I was), but because I don’t agree with my past self on a lot of issues. I don’t just mean politics either. It goes far beyond being a conservative or a liberal; I’m afraid to post anything even remotely controversial, from social issues, to religious views.
I was raised in Southern Baptist churches; as a kid, I went to church every Sunday, and as a teen I went to youth group every Wednesday. For the majority of my life, I was surrounded by very religious people. And as a result, pretty conservative people. However, I grew up in a pretty liberal house. My dad has always had strong political views and he staunchly supported Democrats in every election. These two very different worlds both had a strong influence on me. As I grew older and began thinking for myself, I flip flopped on a lot of things. My conservative religious background clashed with my liberal upbringing and I couldn’t figure out which group I belonged to.
A lot of the time, I’m not 100% sure where I stand. Other times, I know that my opinion will seriously upset someone I love and care about and I would rather avoid an awkward/painful conversation than be upfront about my beliefs. I feel like I’m standing in a room with 2 pendulums, one coming from the left, and one coming from the right. Either way I go, I’m going to get hurt. So I just stand still. But that doesn’t work either. Sometimes being silent is like standing still, but I don’t know what else to do.
I want to be an open book, and I want to fiercely support the things I believe in. But I’m still figuring things out, and I reserve the right to do that privately. With social media right at my fingertips, it’s hard to forget that at times. It’s so easy to let your emotions guide you into clicking a button. So for now, I will hold back and remain silent, and possibly thought a fool, but I’m going to do my best to not to open my mouth and remove any doubt.