Lopez: Remaining authentic in college is difficult

Dominique Lopez

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Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

I grew up in a small town where the idea of leaving for the first-year college experience is often not attempted. The first time I went home last month, the very first person to spot me — my neighbor — told me not only how proud they were but also how much their daughters looked up to me.

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As I stood next to the fence listening to positive affirmations, a pit began to grow in my stomach, and I struggled to fight back the tears that were slowly creeping into my eyes. 

So much pressure is tied to the decision to go to college. It feels like I’ve become an idol more than a role model. There is not only the pressure to stay true to ourselves and present our authentic selves in this new environment but also pressure to adapt and become someone who we didn’t even know we wanted to become.

All these outside pressures force us to question if the person we thought we were is real and wonder why we shifted our lives from something that we were comfortable in.

How do we know who we are really supposed to be? How do we continue to share our own stories among the many others that are being told? How do we let our uniqueness shine through when we have been constantly taught to hide it?

Lucas Avelar, a graduate teaching assistant and international student at Colorado State University, said we need to “acknowledge that we are still our own universe and that everything around us is just supposed to be shaping us.”

How do we know what influences are supposed to shape us and what intentionally placed obstacles change us for the better?

Avelar stressed the importance of finding “balance — to find what is new but also add it on to who you were previously and what is there already.”

Finding this balance is a challenge, though, not only from the pressure that we experienced for so long but especially because of how quickly we are showered with acceptance within this new environment.

Coming to college meant that we would leave that place of ultimate acceptance: our homes. With that loss, we are still searching for the acceptance that we have so frequently craved. We are homesick, lost and even sometimes isolated.”

I came into college with a fixed mindset that I would immediately be able to be the real me in this ever-so accepting environment. However, I now constantly find myself wanting to revert back to my old ways, frequently thinking about how easy it would be to change myself so that I can better fit into this new environment and develop in it. 

Coming to college meant that we would leave that place of ultimate acceptance: our homes. With that loss, we are still searching for the acceptance that we have so frequently craved. We are homesick, lost and even sometimes isolated.

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Finding this place of ultimate acceptance was supposed to be the breath of relief that we needed to know we do belong here. Avelar described these moments as “triggers,” but they are more than that — they are ripping our new selves to shreds.

There is always a way to stay true to your morals and who you really are to remain your authentic and beautiful self within this world. You just have to find a way to keep that at the forefront of this developmental process by constantly reminding yourself that you have always been enough.”

The college environment is one that is challenging but rewarding because it makes us who we ultimately want to be. It is a struggle to maintain and stay true to yourself no matter how much you just want to change to better fit in.

However, it is an even greater challenge to keep in mind that this environment is supposed to ultimately help in shaping the old you so you can become a better person. 

College culture isn’t meant to be one that is going to force you to constantly want to change who you are to better fit in; it’s the opposite, and that is ultimately something that is forgotten, especially when you are at the heart of it all, trying to make the changes that are necessary for you to grow.

The main thing to keep in mind is that no matter how much we believe we have to conform, other experiences make it clear that there is a way to not fall into this.

There is always a way to stay true to your morals and who you really are to remain your authentic and beautiful self within this world. You just have to find a way to keep that at the forefront of this developmental process by constantly reminding yourself that you have always been enough.

Reach Dominique Lopez at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @caffeinateddee6.