Youth Ambassador / NY

Your Value, Your Science

By: Nicole Kim, YAV Teen Ambassador (Armonk, New York), high school junior, activist

The pressure to be perfect has, in many ways, perfected its methods. In recent years, rising levels of stress and anxiety in the lives of teenagers around the world have turned an already difficult, emotionally taxing time of adolescence into an even more demanding environment characterized by elevated, and often misleading, standards of excellence. Couple this phenomenon with academic pressures, and the result is an erroneous perception of not only one’s expectations for the future, but also one’s perception of self-worth.

I find myself in no way immune to this sensation. I grew up never knowing if I was “good enough,” if my character or intellect would allow me to make it in the world, or would ever make me feel worth something in my own shoes. Despite all these misgivings, though, I found comfort and confidence in my two favorite subjects: math and science. Numbers, equations, molecules, and cells—these all provided me with a sturdy support to lean on whenever I felt standards of excellence in various aspects of my life starting to rise to unrealistic levels. In math and science, I found my own self worth.

Upon entering high school, I learned of the national STEM initiative, a push for increased interest in math, science, and engineering fields among American youth. I found rooted in the movement a connection to the growing pressure to be perfect that characterized my life and has pervaded adolescence in present day. In realizing that teenagers often avoid areas like math and science because they don’t feel adequate or valuable, it has become my mission to prove that quite the opposite is in fact true.

People find their self-worth, their value, through various means. Acting as a defense against the ravages of adolescence, a successful discovery of one’s true passion can facilitate the acceptance of excellence on one’s own terms and ensure self-validation for years to come. For me, the means was STEM, but I myself am still seeking answers about my path as an individual. The greatest feat one can accomplish, the achievement of self-love, isn’t easy to fulfill, but I am confident that by promoting the discovery of passion and scholarly enthusiasm is a simple step we can all take towards renouncing the false social standards of today and realizing the potential we all inherently possess.