By Mae Lewis, First year Law and French.
The Croft Magazine // Mae Lewis discusses the pressure to define yourself at university in the hope of standing out from the crowd. Whilst this often feels overwhelming and constricting, there is solace to be found through accepting others in order to accept yourself.
Today is not a great day for me. Like everyone else, I have ups and downs, but I can’t seem to shake myself out of the funk I’m currently sitting in. The main problem is that I keep picking myself apart in my head. I don’t know if you do this, but one of my favourite activities (not) is to stare out the window and go over all the ways in which I embarrass myself, the mistakes that I made that day. The ways in which I could be better. However, I am aware that it’s completely unrealistic to assume such a high standard for myself. I know I can’t be perfect, no one can, and all these little things are so unimportant that it’s ridiculous to sit here and even give them a second thought. But yet here I am.
I’m trying to figure out why I do this. I moved to Bristol a couple months ago now, and ever since I have been reflecting a lot on my identity and life choices. Do I know who I am? What makes me, me? Is it where I’m from, my favourite music, which halls I chose or a weird combination of all these things? And what if I change my mind? Take for instance, I met you yesterday. In a typical freshers chat, you ask me where I’m from, what course I’m studying (oh, I have a friend in Leeds doing that!) and eventually what my favourite film is or the like, in an effort to hopefully find a common ground through a shared interest. I tell you my favourite is, let’s say, Cars 2, and immediately you form a certain perception of me. She must be down to earth because her favourite film is Pixar and not something pretentious like a Wes Anderson that I’ve never seen. But say, the next day I meet someone else, and we have an almost identical conversation – as we often do in freshers – and I say my favourite is The life of Pi for the amazing cinematography. Now I like both films, but each answer gives a different perspective on my personality.
The reason I’m saying all of this is not to give you an existential crisis about what your favourite film is, but rather to say that the question of what individuality even is makes me feel insignificant. Add to this social media and an increasing rise in ‘aesthetics’, having a ‘curated identity’ and I’m starting to feel less like an individual and more like I need to define myself as someone. Am I artsy, do I like clubbing, or do I prefer to read and go for picnics? It seems to me as we have grown up there is increasing necessity for categorisation in the digital world, and that sometimes our virtual persona can be even more important than our physical one. But there are millions of people online, so how on earth are you or I expected to stand out?
This ‘little fish, big pond’ feeling is something that has really become increasingly common for me at uni. I don’t know about you, but this is the first time I’ve ever been around so many people who are my age. I can’t stop comparing myself, even when I know its not good for me. Imposter syndrome is a big one, but it doesn’t have to be necessarily academic like its often described. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely struggle in my seminars with feeling like I’m not smart enough to be there, but I have also felt it with my personal level of ‘coolness’, ‘artsyness’ and ‘originality’. It came from feeling like I didn’t know the right music, fashion or even people here at Bristol.
As time has gone on, however, I am slowly remembering that people are complex. You cannot get an accurate understanding of someone from a simple conversation. To put all of these ideals onto them, to say that just because they know a certain DJ they must be cool and therefore not struggling like I am, is completely unfair. I am learning to accept people as nuanced individuals. We all have something to give to the world. You may not like everyone, which is completely understandable, there are some terrible people out there, but do not categorise them as ‘NPCs’. Learning to accept others has helped me to be more comfortable with myself. If I accept people as they are, then hopefully they will accept me for all my pros and my cons. I don’t need to compete with them to be the most interesting person, the most well travelled, the most significant in a room because we can both be. It’s okay to not have everything figured out yet, or to change your mind about the things and people you like. You are significant, just because you’re you.
Featured Image: By Daniel Newell-Price
You are enough just as you are!