Be the most solipsistic version of yourself. In other words, be someone who believes that their own existence is the only thing that is real. Merriam-Webster has been kind enough to define solipsism as “extreme egocentrism,” and many critique our generation’s “narcissism pandemic”—but this is not quite what I am pitching. Assuming yourself as the center of the universe doesn’t have to be a harmful thing. That is, if you know how to wield your power as the cosmic centerpiece.
Whether we are willing to admit it, many of us spend a great deal of time thinking about ourselves, scrutinizing our self-image, or pondering what adulthood holds. Thus, solipsism is almost an inevitable part of our daily lives during adolescence, yet because we have not readily embraced ourselves as proud solipsists, we leave room for self-doubt. Whenever I spoke in a remote class last year, for instance, my face reddened like a ripe tomato while my mind raced to overthink what others in the Zoom meeting thought of my response: “Did they catch that outrageous grammar mistake I just made?” “Could they tell that my voice is shaky?” “Will someone notice how nervous I am?” As the questions continued to spiral out of control, I fell into a deeper state of panic, doubting if I am ever going to be a functioning adult. But if we already spend so long contemplating our existences above all other things in life—why should we nonetheless worry ourselves into the pains of existential crises in getting carried away by others’ perceptions of us?
In the spirit of rebellion against this unjust paradox, I propose that we become the boldest, most solipsist teenagers in order to fend off the evils of existential crises. In this regard, I think we should all look to the eponymous character in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird”—a movie that traces a high school senior’s coming-of-age journey—as a role model. Though viewers can almost instantly tell that Lady Bird’s character is flawed and is so self-centered that she is often oblivious of the gratitude she owes to her family and friends, I was mesmerized by Lady Bird’s charisma less than two minutes into my first time watching the film. When she said, “I wish I could live through something,” and then gets out of a moving car mid-argument with her mother, I admired her courage to unapologetically be herself without being fixated on what that should entail, speak her mind, and even change her name to Lady Bird. And while Lady Bird experienced conflicts with her family and friends before learning to appreciate their support, she never doubted her ability to pursue her dreams nor wavered in her determination to rebel against what others told her to settle for. Thus, Lady Bird’s solipsism gifts her a sense of unabashed confidence, which in turn, allows her to truly experience adolescence as she marches towards adulthood without growing up too soon.
I am calling on every one of you to be the main character. If we must spend so many moments of adolescence contemplating self-image and adulthood, so be it, but be defyingly that way: be that proud solipsist. If we pettily and secretly think we are the centers of the universe anyway, then we should try to believe that we are indeed capable of achieving everything in the universe. I urge you to put on the “songs that make me feel like I’m in a teenage coming-of-age movie” playlist on Spotify, get out into the world, blush as much as you need to in Zoom classes, and carpe diem: become a Lady, Lord, Noble, or whatever else is on your mind.