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It is easy to get caught up in external opinions, especially when entering a new environment. You don’t know what to expect and you intrinsically want to be accepted, so you follow the lead of others around you and compromise parts of your personality in order to feel like you belong. This happens very often in life, especially in college; it’s intimidating to meet new people with different backgrounds and try to feel at home with them.

Sooner or later, if you are not staying true to yourself, you will become dissatisfied with the way you are living your life. Whether or not you choose to accept it and make a change, it will slowly begin to bother you. This is completely normal as you are making the transition into your adult life and realizing what makes you tick. In order to fully grow in your new environment, while still staying grounded and listening to your instincts, here are a few things to remember:

 

True friendships will feel natural.

This sounds pretty obvious, but I have seen plenty of people hanging around so-called friends who make them feel invalidated. They stay dissatisfied with the connections they have made in fear of having to start over and search for a new group of friends. 

What you have to remember is that the people you meet are not necessarily meant to stay in your life forever. When you meet someone who you click with, you will know and you won’t question it. If you have to wonder whether or not a person understands you or is treating you correctly, they probably aren’t. 

You should never feel bad for slowly fading away from a friend if they are filling you unhappy or uneasy feelings. If you feel as though you have to conform to another person’s lifestyle in order to stay friends with them, cut them off immediately. College is about growth and experience; if the people that surround you are not contributing to feelings of excitement, curiosity and happiness, they are holding you back. 

The same idea applies to the times when you feel yourself being cut off by someone; if it was a natural friendship, it would have persisted. You will never know what is going on inside another person’s mind. It is easy to take things personally, but sometimes an objective outlook needs to be applied to human interactions in order to fully understand why someone does what they do. No one is out to get you; people will do what feels natural and instinctive. It is better for people to listen to what they feel rather than stay unhappy in a friendship in order to spare feelings. Truth is worth the pain.

 

Romantic relationships should be a positive addition to your life, not your whole life.

Getting too caught up in a relationship is detrimental, but everyone has done it at one point or another in his or her life. You do not need validation from a significant other in order to feel comfortable with yourself. Ever. If you are at a place where romance is equivalent to self-worth, you should not be in a relationship.

College should be a place where you search for the things that make you feel the most alive. A romantic partner comes after that. It sounds cliché, but you should not be close with someone until you become close with yourself. If you get too involved and attached to a relationship, you can easily lose yourself and redefine parts of yourself based on what you think your significant other wants.

Insecurity creates more confusion about who you are. It is easier said than done, but you need to find confidence. This is not achieved through external validation. You have to understand who you are, what you like and how you think before you try to understand someone else. Of course experience helps with self-discovery, but so does self-reflection. There needs to be a balance.

A healthy relationship consists of two individuals who coexist. They do not see one another as their whole world, but rather a seamless part of their own personal worlds. They support each other in their individual endeavors and spend time together, but never take away from each other’s personal experiences and lives.

And strangely enough, if you throw yourself into your passions and interests, there will be someone who will find that attractive. You want people in your life that are attracted to you, not some mask that you have carefully constructed in order to try to please someone. Sooner or later, it will fall apart.

Listen objectively to peers, colleagues, professors, and advisors, but you ultimately know yourself better than they do.

You will realize, if you have not already, that a lot of people seem to have strong opinions on the things you do and do not do. Your friends will try to tell you that you made a wrong decision, your professors will tell you that you ideas are not adequate, and your advisors will tell you how they think you should go about your college experience.

I am not in any way saying to ignore them; you need to fully take in what people are saying in order to potentially achieve a new perspective and grow further as an individual. But there are times when people are wrong and you have to learn how to differentiate. If you constantly listen to external voices, you will never know what your own opinions are.

Be confident in your instincts. Confide in people and ask for advice by all means, but if someone’s opinion feels wrong then do not feel obligated to agree or abide by it. If someone is extremely opinionated and is berating you into following what they believe, be polite but be firm in your convictions. We are all just people; there is no need to be intimidated by status when it comes to your personal decisions.

Something that people sometimes do not remember is that you are your own individual and your human experience is completely subjective. You are selfish by nature because you were born into a singular body and your personal life choices directly affect you and only you.

Follow your instincts.

They will rarely lead you down the wrong path. Listen objectively, look at the world with curiosity and create positive connections and relationships with people. But when something begins to have a negative impact on you, then you need to find the strength to stay grounded. You know yourself and you as a human deserve to have the most positive experience on this earth as possible. You don’t exist for anyone else but yourself.

 

A quote to remember: “be the energy you want to attract.” Do what feels right, and the rest will follow.

Lauren Wisnewski is a photographer and artist, and she is currently studying graphic design at Montclair State University.www.laurenwisnewski.com
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