Being your authentic self during university: putting yourself out there

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By Abigail Sutcliffe, Fourth Year Psychology

The Croft Magazine // University can feel like a fresh start. It can feel like the place to finally be that person you've always wanted to be. However, Abigail talks us through the importance of staying true to ourselves, and not changing who we are.

It is important to always be yourself | Victoria Feliniak / Unsplash

When I arrived at my first-year accommodation, I experienced an overwhelming desire for a fresh start, maybe even a reinvention of myself if I could pull it off. This felt like a natural reaction to leaving my home-town-life behind. However, in hind-sight, as much as embracing my new and 'improved' identity provided distraction from being home-sick, nervous, or even lonely, the long-term impact of my inauthenticity frustrated me. Finding friends that appear compatible with your 'new' persona is easy, maybe because far too often we are all attempting to project a similar image. However, enjoying your social life and feeling at home when surrounded by people who bring out the best in your self is far easier.

Celebrate Your Individuality

Being yourself when surrounded by unfamiliar faces can be daunting. We all assume that we are under constant scrutiny and judgement from everyone else. I don’t think I stopped getting heart palpitations before socialising until my second term. I even remember telling people I liked drum and bass! If I'd have known that my most confident and outgoing flat mates all experienced moments, usually behind closed doors, when they too felt anxious about people not liking their real selves, I would have just admitted that I didn’t really know what drum and bass was. Pretending to like a particular type of music (or any sort of pretending) didn’t help me find friends whose company I enjoyed or who looked out for me. I can recall a couple of times when people I met during freshers would ask me about my hobbies and interests, and I found myself awkwardly mumbling that I did Latin and Ballroom dancing at home. I was surprised by their reaction. They thought it sounded really fun and wanted me to teach them a few moves! This taught me that I should be proud to have a hobby that’s a little different. Reminiscing about my first term and meeting the amazing people that I'm still friends with today makes me smile. I had the opportunity to discover interesting details about all of these people, funny stories from their school days, weird talents they had. Did I negatively judge these people? Absolutely not. During freshers, you soon realise that people are more open-minded than you think.

My bedroom helped me to ground myself and calm my thoughts | Emily Fromant / Epigram

Make Your Room Your Own

In my first year, my bedroom walls were plastered with posters and photographs, mostly reflecting my film and music taste. Some of my neighbours decided to decorate their rooms with prints showing support for their football team or photographs of themselves and friends. I have so many fond memories of popping my head round a new friend’s door and being drawn in by their decorations. In my accommodation, everyone’s rooms were more or less identical, yet each colour scheme, disposable collection, or interesting book selection made every bedroom individual. Having a sort of haven where I could relax and enjoy my own special space was so important to me. I really recommend taking the time to be creative and to make your room your own. Reinforce your own authenticity with your surroundings, whether this is permanently having your yoga mat set-up, or designating a specific corner of your desk for your own mini-bar. I also found that when an identity-related issue would appear in my mind, taking myself off to my homely bedroom helped me to ground myself and calm my thoughts.

A Smile Goes a Long Way

The most effective strategy I found for making friends (whether that’s a future-lifelong-friend or a buddy to get the bus with) was to take a couple of deep breaths and simply try and be my friendly, approachable self. As I prepare to wave off my younger sister as she embarks on her long-awaited freshers journey, the best piece of advice I have told her is that everyone is feeling nervous, so just be your warm, kind self. You’ll soon attract some lovely friends, and a smile goes a long way!

Featured Image: Victoria Feliniak

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