Advice, Campus Life, Lifestyle

Why you won’t automatically become your dream self in college

Everybody has this idea in their head regarding their future self. That future self is usually better than your present self. That person is confident, resilient and comfortable in their own skin. They look in the mirror and admire the person they are. That 2.0 version of yourself almost always crosses your mind at a new chapter in your life — like starting college.

It’s a common misconception that once you cross the college threshold, all your flaws and problems will magically dissipate. As much as you try to alter your exterior and interior character in a new setting, all of your old ticks and insecurities will always circle back. 

The reality is that a new environment cannot change who you’ve always been, at least not right away. It’s wonderful to feel hopeful when a fresh start is imminent, but to rely on a surface level change to completely change yourself is a recipe for disaster. 

Any of those lingering issues that you can legitimately control and reform have to be faced head-on. Mustering up the courage to work on your problems instead of hoping for your circumstances to help is the healthiest path to change. The process will be challenging but very rewarding. 

A typical false belief is that once you’re in college, you naturally have to become that frightening word — an adult. That 2.0 self you dream of isn’t equating the word “adult” with someone like your parent. Many of us hope our adult self is a cool, collected person over 18 who has it all figured out. No more petty drama, no more self-doubt and no more authority. Seemingly, being an “adult” means you aren’t afraid of the little things anymore, and you face the big things directly. Past mistakes that tripped up your teen self are juvenile.

A college classroom. Kendall writes about how college is a period for growth and variability and that students shouldn’t worry about becoming their dream adult self during that time. COURTESY OF SMBC VIA FLICKR

Maybe this can be your mindset one day in the near or far future, but entering college means you have to live and manage your responsibilities on your own. It doesn’t mean that you have to be faultless. College is full of ebbs and flows. How can you expect yourself to not repeat mistakes or habits that you’ve been used to most of your life? Plateauing once in a while isn’t a bad thing. 

The whole point of starting a life in a new place is to grow. Growth is an uncomfortable experience because you’ve never been through this particular journey before. The only way to make it to your desired self is to grow into it organically. Growing is an entire journey on its own. It could be long and arduous, but the results are worth the wait. 

That dream self your psyche has constructed may be your future self. But banking on that is a dangerous game. In so desperately wanting a positive experience, life or self becomes negative altogether. This is what philosopher Alan Watts referred to as the “Backwards Law” — constantly pursuing a better something makes you less satisfied because it emphasizes the fact that you don’t have it. 

That dream version of yourself that you fantasized about in your childhood bedroom can most definitely be you one day. But to become that person is a whole different entity. Steps and actions need to be taken to see even the smallest of changes in any situation. With college being a place littered with bumps in the road, fighting for that change will make the finish line a hard one to cross, but it isn’t impossible. That dream is achievable if you’re able to accept and evolve. Just don’t rely on anyone for improvement except yourself. 

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