The myth of 'finding yourself' at university


By Lois Ryan, Second Year, English and Philosophy

The Croft Magazine // We’ve all heard of that person who ran off to university and ‘found themselves’. Often accompanied by a hair transformation, an Instagram post and a new outlook on life. So, what does it actually mean to ‘find yourself’ at university? And how do we go about the task of finding our true selves?

‘Finding yourself’ can mean many things to different people, but among students it generally relates to finding some kind of authentic, innate identity. Attributing this feeling of an individual identity to the circumstances in which it prevails is common. It has led leading thinkers to view it as something we can only acquire through consumption. We have to buy this new wellness class, or join this new gym. Are people then really talking about university as an opportunity to find yourself? Or is it another way to acquire a fake new identity through consumption?

Moving away and leaving everything familiar is a great chance to find out who you are | Epigram / Emily Fromant

An uncomfortable but important question. Speaking from experience, ‘finding yourself’ at university can more relate to your emotional response from literally finding yourself in a new city, surrounded by new people, with new independence and ways of thinking. By moving away from all the things which previously confined and defined you. For example, how others see you at home, the standards and beliefs pushed on you from all directions. By moving to university, you are in a sense given a fresh start to carve your own sense of self. You are prompted to find your own perspective, your own opinions, and realise what kind of person you want to be.

You should trust the process of finding yourself | Epigram / Emily Fromant

‘Finding yourself’ can feel like an overwhelming task to embark upon, but the process consists of a natural unlearning of things in your head you now deem ‘not you’, in favour of gently feeling out the things that are ‘you’. Whether that’s to do with your appearance, your beliefs, your hobbies or anything else you feel is a part of your identity. The end goal of ‘finding yourself at university' is misleading, because it places a time limit on how long you have to figure yourself out.

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Finding yourself takes time, and it is a process you may go through again and again as you grow. University however, is the prime place to start this process. Because, finding yourself consists of small natural changes and adjustments, almost universally experienced amongst coming-of-age adolescents. By moving away from your home to university, you are already on the right path. So whilst fixating on an end-goal of a ‘new you’ glow-up just adds pressure to students already feeling the pressures of adjusting to university life, we might find some peace in trying to embrace change as it comes, and in trying to just trust the process.

Featured image: Epigram / Emily Fromant

Have you 'found yourself' at university? Let us know!


Lois Ryan

Second year English and Philosophy