Managing Social Pressures at University
Coming to university is a great opportunity to find new friends and mix with people from all different cultures and backgrounds. As exciting as this is, meeting new people also comes with its challenges and you might feel pressured to make choices which conflict with your personal values. In this post, I want to give some advice on how to overcome these pressures in a few different areas of uni life to reassure you that you have the power to stay true to yourself and create an experience which is right for you!
Drinking & Going Out
One of the main social pressures you might encounter at university is drinking. If, like me, drinking and clubbing is not usually your scene, it can be difficult to balance spending time with your friends and participating in activities which you personally enjoy. Drinking too much as a result of peer pressure can also make you more likely to take things too far and feel bad the next day, so it’s much better to do what you feel comfortable with and set your own pace. There are lots of societies at Warwick which allow you to get to know new people without drinking and you can still have a great time at SU events and club nights sober. If you’re feeling pressured or worried that you will give in to the crowd, think about what boundaries you want to set and be clear about them with yourself and others. If you’re with the right people they’ll respect your decision and if they don’t, it might be an indicator that they’re not the right fit for you.
You might also feel pressure from your peers on your course. When you’re with people who have come from a similar academic background to you, it can be tempting to start to compare yourself to others and see your coursemates as competition. This is really unhealthy because ultimately, you’re at university to develop your own interests and skills in your own way and everyone will be on a different journey to achieve this. As I discussed in my previous post (Returning to Study After a Break), there will probably always be someone who has done more reading than you or seems to know more about the subject than you do, but this doesn’t make you any less capable – focus on what you can do and remember that your best is always good enough.
Your Beliefs & Values
It’s natural for everyone to have different personalities, beliefs and values, but sometimes you can find yourself in situations where you don’t feel like your values are respected or you feel pressured to be someone you’re not. Although it can feel difficult to stay true to yourself in these situations, the feeling of changing in order to ‘fit in’ to a certain group is not worth it. It’s really natural to experience a feeling of isolation and loneliness at times and this is definitely something I’ve experienced, but I always remember that I would much rather swim against the tide and be myself. Doing this also ensures that you make true, healthy and long-lasting friendships rather than superficial connections to people you’re not really suited to.
Although navigating social pressures in a new environment can be stressful, I think it’s a really important part of becoming independent and learning about yourself. If you find that you feel lonely at times, this is completely normal and a common part of settling in that you will get through. If you stay true to yourself and what matters to you, you’ll start to build a university life which reflects the person you want to be and that you’re proud of.