You may have seen my most recent post, about why everyone should try to establish connections with the people around them. With that being said, I feel it necessary to clarify that it is okay to not be friends with everyone in college, or in life for that matter. If you’re anything like me, this lesson does not come easily.
My mother is people-pleaser — her most important goal at any given time is to make those around her happy. So, as her daughter, you can imagine how the same quality rubbed off on me. Whereas my mom comes off as sweet and genuine, however, I tend to come off as unsure of myself, as I never want to give anyone a reason to not like me. So, in high school, I remained relatively reserved. I didn’t say anything that could offend anyone, but then again, I hardly said anything at all. If you know me now, you would not believe the person I was just five years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still quintessential Erin. I had the same interests and personality traits then as I have always had, it’s just that, for a period of time, I didn’t let some of my greatest qualities shine through.
Great, now I sound like a narcissist.
The truth is, I changed schools when I was eight years old, and lost most of my friends in doing so. When I graduated into middle school, I didn’t know the majority of the students anymore, and when I finally graduated into high school, it was, again, a different environment and different set of people. It seemed that every few years, I had to reevaluate what environment I was entering, who I was, and how I fit in. Overtime, I learned through a process of trial, error, and reinforcement, that ultimately, I was better off just keeping my mouth shut rather than saying the wrong thing.
How sad is that? I was so afraid of being myself, and therefore doing the wrong thing, that I swept parts of my own personality under the rug. And my personality is, like, amazing. Obviously.
I am naturally an outgoing person; just ask my parents to show you home videos of me performing concerts for my family at four years old. It’s no coincidence that they’re all wearing ear plugs and drinking wine, by the way. So where did that fearlessness go? How had I lost confidence overtime without even realizing it?
I guess that is just the nature of the beast. In growing up and learning about your environment, yourself, and your place in your environment, you inevitably face pressure from peers, parents, school, and society about what you should look like and how you should act. That’s how you learn how to assimilate into your environment — from modeling your behavior after what you’re taught. The first time you do anything — try on makeup, highlight your hair, wear a new outfit, make a joke, hang out with a certain person, try a new activity, and so on — you subconsciously test your own ability to assimilate into your environment. And the judges of that test? Your peers. Your cruel, teenager peers who are going through the same struggles, and who want to make themselves look and feel better by making you the subject of their laughter.
So now I sound like a high school counselor who was bullied in high school. But the truth is, I wasn’t. I had friends — lots of them, in fact — but none of them were true friends. When I go home for Thanksgiving next week, there will only be a handful of people I will go out of my way to see. Why? Because, back then, I didn’t let hardly anyone see the real me. Whenever I would try something new — subconsciously putting myself up to that test — I would get shut down, whether my friends actually liked the something new or not. The truth is, they saw my vulnerability, and they took advantage of it. More often than not, the only time people seemed to pass “the test” was when they took advantage of someone else’s vulnerability. This behavior is learned through the process of trial, error, and reinforcement, because when we pass the test (when our friends compliment our outfits or laugh at our jokes), we learn that we have successfully assimilated into our environment, and we repeat the behavior.
Maybe that’s why I study public relations — I aim to always say the right thing. But my desire to say the right thing, or more accurately, my fear of failing to do so, is what hindered me throughout high school. Overtime, I learned to keep my mouth shut, get good grades while simultaneously “hating” school, hang out with boys but not be a slut, and dress, wear my hair, and style my makeup just like everyone else. The sad part is, I just wasn’t being myself.
In college, you can be anyone you want to be. Since starting college, I’ve gained back so much of my confidence and personality that, sadly, I didn’t even know I had lost. I’ve regained confidence by joining a sorority full of strong, beautiful women, who want to support me and see me thrive. I’ve regained confidence by taking risks and succeeding. I’ve regained confidence by overcoming failures. I’ve seen myself regain this confidence, and I’ve learned how much I let external factors interfere with my own happiness. I’ve learned how to recognize this in case it ever starts to happen again. I’ve learned that it is okay to make mistakes, and that mistakes can actually be a good thing because they show that you’re a human. As a wise speaker once told me, we should all aim to be “flawesome,” and own our flaws, rather than hide from them. The most important part of this? Truthfulness. Let your flaws show. Neigh, let them shine. Be yourself.
In being yourself, you will inevitably come across people whose personalities you don’t mesh with, just as you will come across personalities with which you click instantly. That is okay. Be who you are. Sometimes, even when you state your opinions with respect, other people won’t like them, and that’s okay. Sometimes, people won’t like you because of the way you look, and that’s okay. Sometimes, people won’t like you for inexplicable reasons, and that is okay, too. Those things are all their problems. You can’t be friends with everyone; if you try, you’ll likely end up doing more damage than good. In the end, all that matters is that you be yourself, and that you don’t let one person’s opinion change who you are.
These are the types of things that make you stronger, that you can’t learn in high school, that you can’t be told by others, and that you don’t learn inside of a classroom. These things take time to learn, and they make you a better person for it.
What are your thoughts on the last two posts? Comment below or tweet me and I might retweet you!