By Megan Shinner | Advice Editor
University is a huge milestone that many chose to embark on. When this is a time usually signified as “finding yourself”, we also have to do the whole “rediscovering” thing in order to reach that stage. With the exposure to new opportunities, we find different things we like and learn things about ourselves that we didn’t know before. Although, sometimes we have no idea what we are doing with ourselves, what we like doing, whether we like our course or extra-curricular activities. Uni is one big pre-life experiment, a try-before-you-buy if you will! However, you mustn’t completely lose track of your individuality during this time.
Peer pressure and feeling the need to fit in a group can still be an issue at University. Even though it can be exciting, it can also get quite lonely at times. Some people settle in straight away, yet some don’t get off to the flying start that they expected to. Regardless of where you stand with meeting others, nothing is stopping you from claiming the university experience you envisioned. Here are some tips on how to embrace individuality and how when we stop comparing ourselves to others, we can find our own happiness and identify what being successful means to us as an individual.
With all the overwhelming options that surround society these days regarding education, skills, hobbies, and socialising, it ironically makes us feel like we don’t have any choice in what we do. We feel like we must do this, or we must have achieved this by a certain age. However, none of this is true. Just because someone else is good at something, it doesn’t mean you have to be amazing at it too. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and all pursue different interests. That’s what makes everyone so interesting! It would be boring if everyone was the same, wouldn’t it?
This is why it is important to focus on what we DO have rather than what we DON’T have going on in our lives. This could be anything from being grateful for our ability to read, to embracing a current hobby that we enjoy and want to develop our skills in that area further. When we sit down and evaluate our world, and not everyone else’s, it really puts into perspective what we have going on. However, if you find you don’t have much going on, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your options. There are so many societies, clubs, and volunteering opportunities within Cardiff that again – there are so many options, we don’t know what to do with ourselves! Focusing on finding something that makes you happy to dedicate your time to rather than fixating on what everyone around you is enjoying and filling their time with is a step in the right direction to finding your individuality.
Step outside of your comfort zone
One of the many great things about Cardiff is that there is a wealth of opportunity within and out of the university and students union. Cardiff is a large city university so there are loads of societies and activities running. Maybe it’s time to try something new? It’s never too late to join a society, sport, or volunteering association as “give it a go” sessions are always being run. Outside of university, you could try volunteering with a local charity or theatre. Many volunteering programs are student-friendly with flexible hours to organise a balance between study and social life. Not only will volunteering help you build your confidence in the immediate sense, but you will develop a unique set of skills that will set you apart from the crowd when applying for a career in the future. You get to make new friends and learn new skills that you would never get to explore in an academic environment. This may even be the place where you find your people! A good piece of advice is to always try and regret having a go rather than dwelling on the what-ifs! If you don’t like something, you don’t have to do it again but it’s better knowing you tried than always wondering what could be different if you had just pushed yourself a little bit. Don’t be afraid. It’s never too late to take a chance! You don’t have to follow the crowd or do a task just because the rest of the people in your class are. Fill your time that aids your own happiness.
Compete with yourself
A little bit of healthy competition is good – even if it is with yourself! One significant way to find a sense of achievement in your life and to source motivation is to set deadlines and goals outside of academia. For example, you could give yourself the task of reading one book a month. By the end of the year, you would have read at least twelve books. Normally, when we set these goals – we then naturally try to beat them. This method may then encourage you to meet your goal earlier and may lead you to read three books in two months.
You will soon realise how much you underestimate yourself and will get a real sense of what you can achieve when you focus on what you want to get out of your time. It’s your life at the end of the day and it is what you make it. Cooperate with yourself on your boundaries to reach your potential and sustain your happiness in the long run.
Put everything into perspective
Most of the time, life never goes the way we expect it to go. Sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in bad ways. However, when we reflect on 5 years ago or so, are you exactly where you thought you’d be now? Personally, 5 years ago I was completing my GCSEs. I had no idea I would be where I am now, participating in the societies that I do, meeting half of the people I have already met and living in a new city. So, it’s important that we apply this analogy to the next 5 years of our lives. If the 2017 version of me couldn’t predict what is happening now, then how can current me predict what will happen in 2027? The only right answer is that I can’t. However, what I am certain of is that every time I reflect on the previous years of my life, I always regret not starting something sooner, not giving an activity a go, or quite simply just worrying too much about circumstances I cannot control.
The lesson here is to remain in the present and to take everything one day at a time because who knows what’s going to happen along the line! We can’t obsess over worries that may or may not happen or stress about circumstances that could change with a blink of an eye. However, what we can control is what is going to happen to us right now, at this very moment in time.