Following Malala Yousafzai’s lead

October 21st, 2014



Do me a favor. For this one moment, stop thinking about yourself. You heard me. Cast aside that 21st century self-centered mentality for the next few minutes (this might be more difficult for some).


In today’s world, we wallow in self-pity. We’re all guilty of it. Even you. Yes, I’m talking to you. Don’t look away. And don’t you dare chuck this column across the quad because I hurt your pride.


I’m sure, that even if it was just once, you had an “oh, poor me” moment. For some people, it’s a daily reoccurrence of diva-fits because one tiny thing goes awry. For once, they aren’t handed everything their little heart desires on a silver platter. Cue the sass.


But rest assured: I’m here to help take your mind off of yourself. Maybe it’ll even spark some inspiration. So, here’s your week’s serving of humble pie – Malala Yousafzai. Need I say more? (But I will, because there are about 400 more words of column space I need to fill).


Even if you haven’t followed Yousafzai’s story from the get-go, I’m willing to bet you’ve heard bits and pieces.


Last Friday, Oct. 3, the 17-year-old activist was named the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


At age 11, Yousafzai’s became an advocate for girls’ rights for education, blogging for the BBC under an alias.


I’ll bet you a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream most 11-year-olds don’t even know what the word “advocate” means, let alone be one for an issue with such gravity.


Flash-forward to three years later: at the age of 14, she was shot by the Taliban.


Flash-forward to another three years later: she’s stronger than ever. The next time you get a “C” on a test and pull Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” stunt, think about that.


Yousafzai didn’t even let the Taliban distort her visions to ignite change in the world. And she doesn’t now. Even though the Taliban still views her as a threat, Yousafzai isn’t shaken.


Even in her darkest hour, she selfessly committed her life to campaigning for the future of young women in Pakistan, Jordan, Afghanistan and beyond.


Ladies: before you open up your mouths and say how you’re going to drop out of school because it’s just too much, remember that these girls don’t even have the opportunity to get an education. Wrestle with that idea for a minute.


Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring characteristics about Yousafzai is her naturally pacifistic nature. The odds were against her. She grew up in a culture plagued with violence. Yet, she breaks away.


One of her most famous quotes was a little piece of advice she relayed to President Obama: “Instead of soldiers, send books. Instead of sending weapons, send pens.”


People, there’s a reason why she won the prize.


You’d think that writing two best-selling books, breaking bread with international leaders and becoming a household name would give you all the confidence in the world. But listen to this: in her speech in Birmingham, Yousafzai said, that the peace prize gave her “encouragement to go forward” and “believe in herself.” So, wait? She altered the game of women’s rights by spearheading one of the most successful advocacy groups out there, and didn’t have full faith in herself?


Oh, that’s right. It’s hard to when you’re targeted by the Taliban. Most people would be crippled by the fear.


However, Yousafzai transforms that fear into strength. The strength that enacts change. The strength that inspires. The strength that educates, advocates and gives a voice to the voiceless.


 And I hope that one day we can strip away our inclinations towards selfishness, and follow in her footsteps.