Surviving College When You're Painfully Shy

Being the “shy girl” sounds cute. And maybe it is in cheesy teen movies where the meek, little protagonist somehow always gets the most popular boy in school to fall for her and suddenly becomes overwhelmingly loved by everyone.

But it doesn’t feel cute, especially once high school ends and college becomes very real very quickly. If you’re anything like me, the world is a scary place; being dropped in the middle of a top university when you’re 18 years old gets overwhelming pretty much immediately.

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Talking to other human beings in itself is an uphill battle without the added pressure of being totally on your own for the first time. That bubbly sorority recruiter seems to have it all, but some of us just cannot bring ourselves to bridge the gap between here and there--between the wallflower and the social butterfly, between the girl in the corner and the girl in the spotlight, between what you feel like and what she looks like--because exposing ourselves could not be more daunting.

So shy, it’s painful. You feel this horrible spotlight on you all the time, like the world is watching and waiting with bated breath for your next screw up or awkward moment, and you worry over your every move until there doesn’t seem to be a way out. But I’m here to tell you that there’s a way through.

When I struggled--and struggled hard--to fit myself into college life and figure out every detail I needed to pad my personality with, one of my best friends gave me my favorite piece of advice: nobody cares.

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Malicious, I know. But, not what it appears to be. Obviously people care about you and love you and want you to succeed, but that doesn’t mean that everyone on campus in all of your classes only exists to judge and define you.

If interactions with people outside your usual social circle give you heart palpitations, then pulling yourself out of the mindset that they’re any different from you will make things a lot easier. I won’t lie; that takes time. But once you level the playing field, you’ll realize just how comforting it is that they don’t care as much as you think they do.

They don’t care if you didn’t have the extra ten minutes to do your hair this morning so it’s up in a messy bun. They don’t care if you haven’t had the chance to do laundry so you wore your pajamas to an 8 a.m. They really don’t care if you missed more questions on the quiz than you’d hoped for (the only thing on everyone else’s mind is their own lousy quiz scores).

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I can promise you that if you walk into the RecCen gym wearing your high school soccer team t-shirt and some old running shorts, no one will hold an ounce of distaste towards you. Yes, I know that girl over there head-to-toe in Lululemon looks really good, but we’re not here to look cute. We’re here to workout and then get the heck home.

All you’ve got to do is focus on getting yourself through each day, one at a time, and the rest will fall into place. More people than you think are fighting just as hard as you are all the time to make it. There’s no time for judging, shaming, or worrying about what everyone else thinks.

So when you walk onto campus, remember that this is only college. Just like high school, it won’t last forever. We’re all tired and struggling, but we’re all going down together. We’re just glad you’re here.

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