Are you a youngling tired of being underestimated just because of your age? Well, this article is for you.
“You’re too young to understand anything.”
“You don’t know what’s right or wrong.”
“Your opinion doesn’t matter.”
Are these words familiar to you? Have you heard them so many times in your life that you can’t even count the amount using both hands? Well, let me ask you this; do you usually hear these exact words from someone that is older than you? If your answer is yes, then I can assure you that I hear you and that your opinion does matter.
The big question is “Does age actually define maturity?”. Well, a lot of people have the misconception that maturity is a sudden occurrence when in reality, it’s a gradual process. Just because a person has reached the legal age, it doesn't mean that they automatically know how to lead a company, drive a car, count taxes, or even raise a newborn child. Similar to skills and hobbies, you develop them by learning and gaining experiences, not magically waking up with them. Thus, it’s unfair to limit an individual’s knowledge to age because I’ve met older individuals who haven’t experienced the things that I have. In contrast, I’m also acquainted with younger individuals who’ve accomplished far more than I ever will.
So, if someone were to ask me how I’d define maturity, I’d say that everyone has their own definition. It depends on various factors such as life experiences, the people around you, and lastly, privilege. Someone who has to take up the role of a lost parent may develop maturity faster than someone who has been spoon-fed since birth. If an individual grew up being silenced as a child, they may be afraid to fully express themselves in their prime adult years. A person who has access to quality education may also be more knowledgeable than a person who doesn’t have the same resources. Overall, it’s important for us to be mindful of what someone is experiencing in their lives because it’s not always obvious to our eyes.
You may wonder, “Is this really a major issue?”. In my personal opinion, yes, because the dismissal of opinions leads to invalidation. It’s especially detrimental for youths since such experiences could follow them into adulthood, affecting their general well-being and interpersonal relationships. Research also shows that invalidation has been associated with feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, confusion, and inferiority in affected individuals. For example, instead of being guided by the more ‘mature’ party, children are belittled and told that their thoughts or interests are meaningless. In return, they’d sacrifice their happiness to fit into the expectations that society has placed upon their shoulders.
But why exactly does this tradition exist in our society? Why can’t some people seem to accept that times are changing and that everyone develops their maturity at different paces? Unfortunately, no one truly has the answer. It’s difficult to eliminate a mindset that has been in place for centuries, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t try. Next time, when someone is trying to express their opinions to you, remember these three things; listen, evaluate, and respond.
Listen: Nothing excites a person more than knowing that someone is paying attention to what they are saying and simultaneously, would create a comfortable environment and increase a person’s confidence.
Evaluate: You should take some time to absorb any information being received and mentally correlate said information with your own values.
Respond: Giving a well thought-out response would further assure someone that their opinion was heard and stimulate further conversation.
Now, what exactly do I mean by ‘times are changing’? The simple answer is: technological advancement. Regardless of age, almost everyone has access to the library of unlimited information called the Internet. If one were to log into their Facebook or Twitter account, they can view current issues that aren’t only happening in their respective countries, but also around the world. People of varying ages are absorbing information like a sponge and expanding their mental capacity with just the tips of their fingers. A fifteen year old girl could be more aware of political issues in comparison to a 30-year old lady if the former spends more time reading up on the issues on social media.
It’s never too early to expose yourself to what’s happening in your country and to train yourself to be better leaders for future generations. Take Undi18 for example, a valid proof of what Malaysian youths could accomplish when given the platform and opportunity. One of their most impressive programmes is called 'Parlimen Digital’, which has proven that parliamentary sessions could be conducted virtually and that youths could effectively debate on how to improve policies in Malaysia for the betterment of society. To give you a glimpse of its impact, the first-ever two-day debate session had managed to garner over 200,000 viewers of varying ethnicities and backgrounds.
In conclusion, I believe that age doesn’t necessarily correlate with your maturity. In some cases, it may be the opposite! Even then, we should treat everyone with respect, regardless of their age. Be the change that you want to see happen in society. Guide those who don’t know better because of their life experiences and personal situations. Don’t be afraid to speak your opinions aloud, despite being forced to stay silent. Nothing is impossible if we take that first step, hand in hand.
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