‘Don’t worry, no one else knows what they’re doing either’
My favourite activity during the Summer before university was scrolling through the social media profiles of my soon to be uni mates. This consumed my life for numerous weeks as I sought to find out more about the people I was to meet, compare myself to those on my course and assess who I thought I’d be friends with. I recall messaging my best friend incessantly, updating them with the newest information I had extracted from the social media page of my soon to be year group.
It became so easy and natural for me to want to compare myself with these people that I barely knew and had never met. Whilst somewhat reassuring in the sense that I thought I knew, to some degree, the people I was to meet, it also helped to cement an idealised view of them that was only detrimental in the long run. This made me build a view that was divorced from reality.
Upon arriving at university, I was unsurprised to find that after a few conversations, naturally the people that I had thought I knew were much more complicated than first seemed to be the case. Looking and judging people based on their online presences had been necessarily reductive and perhaps had even made me prejudiced towards or against people before even meeting them!
Whilst I found that everyone I talked to seemed nice enough, there was an air of inevitability in a lot of the conversations that I took part in, a sense of entitlement and expectation. People discussed their plans for internships and career plans as if they were somehow owed to them. This was undoubtedly meant to impress and intimidate those around them in what was a naturally hyper-competitive environment. There is a temptation to give into these feelings of inferiority and intimidation in that I came to university in order to find my way in the world and to have my horizons widened. I arrived without a clear roadmap of how the rest of my life should look and I thought that the people I encountered would likely be the same, but this was not the case. Being at Cambridge meant that from the first day I was exposed to immensely motivated and ambitious types of people that tend to instil a sense of self-doubt in those that don’t share that same outward confidence.
My advice in relation to this however is to not be put off or discouraged by such, for despite the appearances; no one has it all figured out. Through getting to know people that exude such certainty, one soon realises that much of it is a façade; an act taught in order to not project weakness. Underneath it all, practically everyone who finds themselves making that jump into the relative unknown from secondary school to university is plagued with the same anxieties, doubts and worries. Part of dealing with the temptation to compare oneself with others must be, to the best of our ability, to try and be honest with ourselves. We often don’t give an accurate depiction of our lives on social media so we shouldn’t be fooled by the airbrushed realities presented by others. In the same way, we might try and hide behind a veneer of confidence, we must try and recognise the same in others, not to discredit them; but to realise that we all experience the same worries and that is part of what makes us human.
A big part of university I’ve found in my time there so far, is accepting that you don’t have all the answers and being open-minded to different viewpoints and ideas about life. I think that pretending to have it all figured out can even be off-putting to some people but also can deprive you of that chance to actually engage with the amazing opportunities that are so abundant at university. In essence, university is a wonderful place where one can meet truly amazing people but in order to be able to fully appreciate it, often we must put aside our preconceptions about other people and our general expectations and prejudices that can lead us to want to compare ourselves to others. To be able to fully grow and enjoy the experience, it is imperative that one is open-minded about others and about oneself; accepting that no one is perfect and that university for all intents and purposes is a journey of self-discovery amongst other things.