Ditulis oleh: Fatiha Rahimatuz Zahra
Disunting oleh: Alice Pricillya
Ilustrasi oleh: Pricharia Via
When considering whether or not to submit my writing to Kolom Remaja, I contemplated a lot. The same thing happened when I thought about starting a podcast discussing light topics or current occurrences while relating it with my personal experiences – yes, I am also an amateur podcaster. Both times, I thought to myself: why would anyone want to read my articles, anyway? Does my opinion even matter to other people? Did you ever feel the same way when wanting to speak up?
A lot of things can prevent you from speaking up your mind. You may think that your opinion is worthless and wouldn’t make any difference, or that people around you are not supportive enough. Or you are simply unsure of how to convey your thoughts. From observation, or at least I can confidently speak for myself, the people and environment you spend most of your time with have the most influence on your decision to speak up.
A few years back, I had to move to a new neighborhood because of school. Coming from a relatively close-minded society where some topics are considered too taboo to be brought up in everyday conversations, being in this modern neighborhood was eye-opening to me. It brought me new people, new perspectives, and a new point of view, all very different from the conservative habits that I am used to. Their clothes lean more towards the western style. Many of them are bilingual speakers who aren’t too concern about speaking proper Indonesian but instead speak as if their brains don’t even realize they are code-switching, and there are almost no boundaries for conversation topics. Their actions show how little they cared about people’s impression of them. But it was their circle of friends that intrigued me most. I think of them as lucky to be surrounded by supportive peers and a constructive environment. I can see how they were tailored to be confident – to be themselves – ever since they were young.
At that moment, I felt as if all this time, my eyes had been wrapped with a blindfold. It slowly grew into a wall between my world and the world around me, stopping me from perceiving the world with a wider perspective. I became aware of how limited my interpretation of the world was. If I used to hastily dismiss other people’s thoughts and views before, I have now learned to put myself in their shoes and ponder on my opponent’s side of the arguments before rebutting them. I discovered then that this has enabled me to have more sincere two-way conversations with almost no boundary, enabling me to bring up taboo subjects that were once off the table. Turns out, awkward topics serve more purpose than just making people squirm. Once the awkwardness is out of the air, you could understand why there was a need to discuss such topics, and feel the benefits of acquiring new knowledge and point of view.
I knew little of the world, yet I didn’t bother to learn more and force myself to understand it better. Like me, maybe you think that you’ve known plenty about the world. But with so many things going on today and with constant changes occurring all around us, there are always new spheres waiting to be explored and discovered. I feel like I had been like the frog living at the bottom of the well who was content with my surrounding world and didn’t have the desire to explore more. Sure, I learned about human rights in class, but I didn’t bother to look around and act when human rights violations issues that needed support are occurring. I chose to stay clueless under the shadows of my ignorance as an alibi.
Throughout these moments, I notice that if I choose to let my surroundings decide for me what is good or bad, which opinion is valid and not, I would accomplish nothing more than wasting my little yet precious time thinking of all the “what-ifs” and “could-haves”. On the contrary, when I place myself around tolerant and open-minded people, I find myself more motivated and encouraged to voice my thoughts. I could see for myself why being vocal is nothing to be ashamed of, but instead, it is a virtue desired by many. Similar to how we tend to eat more when eating with someone who eats a lot, I unconsciously build up more confidence to speak up when surrounded by peers who do the same. I wouldn’t think of gaining more calories. I don’t hesitate. This is because we subconsciously consider their actions as the ‘norms’ and apply them to ourselves to feel connected and related to them. That is why I believe that being in a society that values activeness and improvement has helped me a lot with gaining the confidence needed to speak out.
I came to the realization that speaking up doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. It can be about anything. For me, I start by conveying my ideas and personal opinions about current issues with those around me and through creating a podcast. Personally, as I learn to express my opinions, new conversations and discussions are unlocked. By honestly agreeing or disagreeing with an argument and opening up about my own thoughts on it, I feel a stronger connection to the person I’m talking to. When someone agrees with me, I would feel more confident with my own opinions as I now have an ally. On the other hand, if someone disagrees and shares their reasons, I learn how to sympathize with others and am introduced to new thoughts that I’ve never thought of before. Sometimes, knowing why other people have views opposite to mine has allowed me to connect with them on a deeper level as I came to a better understanding of his/her beliefs and values. It is a win-win situation for me, no matter how people considered my opinions.
Although not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a supportive environment where personal opinions are valued, there is nothing wrong with starting the movement within ourselves. Perhaps, if we start showing how much we care about what is happening in our surroundings, others would, too. Anywhere you are, whoever your friends are, you have the right to share your arguments and let them be heard. Speaking up is one of the most basic rights in our society, so feel free to express your thoughts and concerns.
Of course, living in a democratic society that allows freedom of speech and expression somewhat gave people the idea that hate speeches are also permitted. This, however, does not justify the fact that doing it is ethical. Voicing your opinion is definitely important, but, at the end of the day, it should also go hand in hand with ensuring our society’s harmony and peace. Remember when an influencer tweeted about how she was bothered with seeing gym users wearing exposing sportswear and called them a ‘visual pollution’? In this case, I think everybody has the right to have their own say about someone’s appearance. However, such negative remarks should have been kept to themselves, and community peace should have been prioritized over people’s self-centered views. This way, it would not have added to the problem of negativity towards body image, not to mention widening the cracks between society.
Expressing your thoughts, even in the smallest form, can become a bridge for you to see new perspectives, gain benefit for yourself and society. It can help you feel truer to yourself, build up your confidence, and grow as an individual. Your activeness might also encourage others around you to do the same.
If you can do it now, do it. Don’t wait until regret comes crawling in.