If you are just beginning college, or you’ve already experienced a year or two of it, you’ve probably realized by now that these few years have the potential to change your entire outlook on life. It’s probably the first time that you are living on your own. As such, it’s really the first opportunity you get to really and truly develop and discover your sense of self. A perfect example of this self-discovery happened when I was in college and decided to start going by my first name instead of my middle name, the name everyone at home knew me by. This was a symbolic gesture, and it helped me not necessarily change who I thought I was; rather, it helped me discover more of those “multitudes” that compose the Self. Here are some tips as you embark on your maiden voyage of self discovery.
1. Make the most of being in a wholly new environment. Let go of preconceptions about yourself.
Throughout your years in high school, you’ve probably developed a sense of self based on what your peers, teachers, and parents think of you. This is only natural, but this “mirrored” sense of self is not your true, constructed self. For example, say you were not very talkative in high school, and were as such, labeled “shy.” By this point, you probably really think of yourself as a shy person. But you aren’t inherently shy. Take advantage of your new environment, and let go of the self that others have constructed for you. Start talking and stop thinking of yourself as someone who is socially anxious. You’d be surprised by how easily you’ll open up to others.
2. Try as many new things as you safely and financially can afford.
In addition to learning, college is a time to try things you’d never imagine yourself doing. Of course, I’m not saying you should take up a sky-diving hobby or start experimenting with drugs. All I’m saying is that you should push the envelope on what you thought you couldn’t do. One good example from my experience is dancing. I thought I was horrible dancer. The truth is, I never really tried dancing because I only thought I was a horrible dancer. I took some college dance classes, and I went out with friends to dance clubs. I soon found that I actually had a talent for it! All you have to do is try!
3. Open yourself up to new ways of thinking. Challenge your status quo.
Your opinions, at least at this point in your life, are often the result of the way your parents think. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with your parents’ opinions on various issues. But it is wrong to adopt a way of thinking in a vicarious way, without really thinking for yourself. Make a list of all the beliefs you hold, and read books that contradict these beliefs. Open yourself up to new ways of thinking, and, hopefully, you’ll hold opinions that are truly your own.
4. Resist stereotyping others, just as you resist being stereotyped.
Being judgmental of others is perhaps the easiest, quickest way to closing yourself off to new experiences. When you place others in boxes and label them, you could be missing out on an entire group of potential best friends. Of course, it’s hard resisting the desire to stereotype others. But think of the last time someone labeled you. It wasn’t very pleasant, right? Focus on this feeling when you feel that you are about to judge—and in the process, cut off—others.
Truth be told, the process of self-discovery is a lifelong one. When I left college, I was not a whole more sure of who I was then when I first came in, and I’ve since discovered even more about myself as I entered the job market, got married, and started a family. But college is unlike any other time in your life. You really have the time to stop and think about the little things, and you have the luxury to begin constructing a genuine sense of self. Don’t squander the opportunity! Good luck!
Barbara Jolie is a full time freelance writer and blogger. She is passionate about lifelong learning and online education. When Barbara is not blogging about all things education, she enjoys spending time with her calico cat, Moses, and her pet parakeet. If you have questions email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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