It’s easy to fall into the trap of not being yourself at university. Experimenting is natural, and beyond that, grants us a ton of new and different life experiences to enjoy, reflect on and grow from. My work as a Peer Helper has provided me with some insight into how people are interacting with trying new things and what they think it says about them. I’ve come to the end of university, and while I certainly don’t intend to stop trying new things in life, that context of experimentation is coming to an end for me. Being on the edge of this change, I would encourage anybody struggling with social and performance-related stress the following point on being genuine and its benefits.
To put it simply, who you are is not defined exclusively by the public activities you participate in. Try everything that interests you, do things which you never had the chance to back home and things that you normally wouldn’t (within reason), but don’t mistake any of the sports you play, courses you take or relationships you have to be the only thing that defines you. Who you are is a mixture of your actions, thoughts and emotions –what you’re going to feel and think about yourself is based on these criteria.
Who you are, genuinely, behind any academic or social demand, is composed of these things. While I was working as a Peer Helper this semester, I kept seeing people define themselves by their program and how well they were doing in it. Students I talked to always seemed surprised or unsure when I asked them if they liked the work or what they thought of the field. People often ignore themselves in this way. This is why it’s such a mistake to hang self-worth on success, popularity and grades: what’s going to matter to you is the effort, understanding and kindness you show yourself and others both in university and the broader world.
As a Peer Helper, I know and believe that it’s good to pursue challenges, but being anything less than honest with yourself and others (in most situations, mind) negatively effects everyone involved. You still have to be polite about how you feel, but being true to yourself and making your decisions based on your own experience of things is often just the best course of action for you and everybody around you.
What’s core to doing this healthily is, in my opinion, making sure that you hold onto what you think and feel, and let that –as opposed to what you think is expected of you –guide you through all the different hats you put on in university. At the end of the day, how you treat others both internally and externally is what defines you at your basest level. Being honest with yourself about that is, to conclude, the first and most important step towards enjoying, interpreting and growing from your experiences in university.
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