Nearly every movie or TV show about college showcases the “glamorous” sides of it. Studying abroad, partying, falling in love, and discovering yourself are some of the themes that take center stage. What doesn’t get talked about enough is the difficult life changes and unique stressors that college students are forced to face. These challenges can put an intense strain on a person’s mental health, and instill the painful feeling of self-doubt.
First of all, when many of us attend college, we move out of our childhood homes and into a brand-new setting, typically a dorm or apartment. With this relocation comes a great deal of new responsibilities, which can be empowering, but also incredibly stressful. Juggling school obligations and managing your own living space can be a new challenge that is bound to take its toll on your mental health.
A positive aspect of college for many people is the opportunity to see fresh faces and make new friends on campus. The culture of college life and dorm atmospheres encourages constant social interaction, which many people fully embrace. However, for others, this emphasis on constantly socializing can be draining and anxiety-inducing. This, paired with the peer pressure of partying, can be enough to make people want to hide away in their dorms and avoid human interaction at all costs. I know I’ve certainly been there.
Many people come to college with the expectation of finding their “calling” or what they’re meant to do with the rest of their lives. We expect discovering our destinies to be a simple and linear process that unfolds before us like a magical red carpet. But take it from someone who will be entering her final year of college this year: it’s not that simple. If anything, my “calling” has become even more jumbled. I still don’t have an extremely clear picture of what I am supposed to do with my life, which is stressful. Thinking about the future and how I will financially support myself while also fostering my passions is enough to send me spiraling.
Needless to say, college isn’t the “walk in the park” that media often makes it out to be. It can be full of loneliness, existential pondering, and anxiety, all of which can contribute to self-doubt and poor mental health.
But the first step in alleviating some of this self-doubt is recognizing that it’s normal and appropriate to be feeling the way you’re feeling. If you’re a college student who feels stressed, alone, or lost, you’re in good company. Realizing that you’re not the only one experiencing these things can relieve those painful feelings of isolation.
Once you realize that you’re not alone in your mental battles, granting yourself compassion comes next. You’re already going through enough mental ailments as it is, you might as well show yourself a little kindness. Life is too short to let these stressful feelings bog you down. As hard as it may be, pushing yourself to practice self-compassion is the best way to relieve the mental stressors that college can create. Take walks outside, watch your favorite movie, and reach out to people in your class that you’re interested in getting to know better. Even if it feels hard at first, taking even a small step to allow yourself to experience a little joy can easily help you overcome some of your self-doubts.
Self-doubt can find ways to creep into our college lives in unexpected ways. But realizing that you’re not alone in your mental battles and finding unique ways to display kindness to yourself can help block it out. You’re stronger than you think, and more in control of your life than it may feel at times. One step at a time you will win these mental battles.