Being Yourself at University
I have never been the most confident person. I prefer (surprise, surprise) to express myself in writing rather than with speech and I find it takes me a long time to feel comfortable in any new situation. I’m sure many people share these qualities but I thought it was worthy of a post because at university, I found the pressure ramped up significantly when I was living in halls and surrounded everyday by more confident people.
It often felt a bit like a paradox though. University was a fresh start and a chance to redefine myself if I wanted to. I came from a fairly small sixth form where everyone knew everyone else and the possibility of anonymity on a large campus was both liberating in some ways and terrifying in others because I thought I may just get lost in the crowd.
After a year and a half though, I think I’m finally happy that I know how to be myself regardless of what other people think but also without having changed who I am completely from sixth form.
I recently spoke to a friend at another university nearby and he agreed with me completely. We both said that we liked that we could now be ourselves without fear of judgement from those around us and we both felt that the most significant change that university had brought was a boost in our self confidence.
I found the first term of first year very tough. I was blessed with a bunch of very welcoming flatmates but I couldn’t escape this feeling of always being on display. Living with people 24/7, I worried that I had to hold up a facade constantly and quite frankly it was an exhausting and daunting prospect.
I didn’t even really meet many people on my own course until term two had begun because I never knew how, or even if it was appropriate, to try and talk to people in lectures. They’re not the most sociable of situations anyway and I always found the large group of a society a difficult situation to break into.
Once I dropped this fear of not being able to be me though, everything else seemed to fall into place.
I became friends with my flatmates first and it was with them that I realised I could be the person I was and it wouldn’t just drive people away from me straight away. Then I found a group of friends on my course and this group has grown and changed over time so now I wonder what I was ever worried about.
People are more accepting than I realised and I think that only becomes more widely true as we get a little older and more mature. At school I felt like there was a correct way to be. I fell into the trap of seeing certain people or groups as the ‘Cool Kids’ but now that whole idea seems to have become irrelevant and everyone can be cool among there own group.
For me, I think the turning point was when I almost stopped caring. At sixth form, my biggest action of self expression was to put a badge on my bag and it may seem petty but I feel like I can judge my progress by how cluttered my bag has become. I still have space to grow but I think in allowing myself to be unique, I have become more interesting and being interesting counts for a lot.
I guess my purpose in writing this post was to share my experience and to try and offer a little hope for those who are maybe still fearing that they have to be someone that they’re not. University is your opportunity. Ignore what everyone else thinks (I know from personal experience that this is much easier said than done) and you will see the benefits. When you decide to be who you have always wanted to be then you can start to do the things you really want to do and hopefully, be a little happier and more confident.