Do you believe what you believe?

Lindsay Buchanan, Senior Writer

Do you believe what you believe? Or do you believe what you do because someone told you to?

Each of us holds basic individual morals, ideas and religious beliefs. Each of us considers our beliefs to be the right ones, superior to other people’s beliefs. Even if we are tolerant and accepting of other people’s right to believe what they want, we still think our belief is better. If we didn’t, we would jump ship and join them in their belief.

But, have you ever stopped and considered how much of what you believe is a product of your own decision? How much of what you believe is a product of what your parents taught you from birth? How much of what you believe is a product of what the people around you believe? How much of what we all believe is a product of what the media tells us to believe?

From birth we are shown what’s important in life by those around us, our families and friends. For some it may have been having a strong foundation in religion, for others in education. Some of us have been taught that a clean house is of the utmost importance and we now believe that to be true. For some, there may have been no guidance at all, and the belief we have come to hold dear is that you better learn to depend on yourself.

Regardless of our individual upbringings, we have been influenced by the people and things around us and now live our lives in ways that reflect that upbringing whether we consciously realize it or not. And it’s natural that we eventually get to the point where we claim the beliefs from our upbringing as our own.

At some point however, you have to ask yourself: Do I believe this (insert belief) because “I” believe it, or because someone told me to believe it?

This “crisis of belief” may hit you at any time in your life. One day you realize that you have been making spaghetti the same way your mom taught you for years, but maybe you would actually like to add mushrooms and basil to the sauce. Another day you may realize that you have been going to church for 20 years because you were raised to do so, but suddenly you realize that you are there now because you actually want to be, because you actually believe. You may be playing baseball in school because it’s what your dad told you would matter most, but you wake up one day and realize that what matters most to you is photography or local politics.

All of these things are natural. The “crisis of belief” has been going on for human beings for as long as there have been families and outside influences. When it happens, you sit down, sort out your priorities and decide what you believe. It may be hard, it may even hurt in some cases, or it may be as easy as adding some mushrooms and basil to your sauce.

The danger of not knowing what we believe comes when we are not even aware that we are being influenced.

At the beginning of each semester, professors in classrooms across the country ask students what their career goals are when they graduate. Alarmingly and increasingly, over half of the students at each of those universities enthusiastically raise their hands when asked if they would like to be a reality TV star or work in the entertainment industry.

Adrian Grenier, star of the hit HBO show “Entourage,” recently completed a documentary called “Teenage Paparazzo” where he turned the lens on a 13-year-old boy who stalks stars in Hollywood and sells the photographs he takes. Grenier wanted to find out how far the paparazzi are willing to go to get shots of famous people. While making his documentary, Grenier discovered a poll given to middle and high school students that said 42 percent of teenagers would rather be an assistant to a celebrity than a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a president of a college or a Navy Seal.

If, after that survey, anyone still thinks our beliefs are not influenced by the media and the world around us, they are living in a bubble. Media in general, and television in particular, are after ratings. Period. If they can make it look more appealing to be a reality TV star and have you actually believe it’s a viable option for your future as opposed to actually finding out what you personally love and working hard to accomplish it, then they have done their job.

But, have you done your job? Do you realize that you are being influenced by what someone else has chosen for you to see and hear? Have you taken the time to discern fact from fiction? Or, are you taking everything MTV, news outlets and politicians are telling you at face value?

We each have a responsibility to ourselves to not take things at face value, to question and be sure of what we believe before we go and present it to the world through our actions.

Do you believe what you believe?