Feeling like you don’t fit into the university crowd is okay

Photo by Will Borys

I moved to Canada from India about two years ago and it has taken me almost that long to realize that it is okay that I’m different. I don’t have to fit in and it is not a big deal.

Trust me when I say this: if you are struggling to find your place, you are not the only one. I went through all of first year trying to be someone I was not in a desperate attempt to fit in, and some might even say that I did or at least it appeared so.

I knew and hung out with a lot of people. I appeared to belong on the outside, but I never felt like I did. Anyone who has ever been to India – or knows anything about the place – knows that the culture in comparison to Canada is night and day.

The problem with trying to fit in and conforming to your surroundings is that you start to lose sight of yourself and your personality.

While for some people that might be something they don’t have a problem with, I’ve always liked the person I grew up to be. Despite that, I still decided it was a good idea to leave myself behind and pretend like I was someone else.

As a kid growing up in India I was terribly shy and introverted. I didn’t fit in then either; surrounded by extroverts and the chaos of Indian society.

Unlike now however, back then I did not feel the need to fit in.

Though I was very shy, I did eventually find my place. I found like-minded people who not only acknowledged that I was different, but also eventually became my closest friends, and I speak to most of them quite often – even today, around eight years later.

Recently I’ve decided to drop that mindset and just talk to people, and most of it has been great. People are much nicer than I had anticipated.

Now let’s come back to the present: I am nearly past the first half of this semester and I still haven’t truly found my place in the jungle we like to call university.

I do have a lot of acquaintances but I still haven’t found that group of friends that I feel truly comfortable around.

That may seem odd since I’ve now been here for over a year, but it did take me a while to find my place back then so what’s wrong with waiting a bit longer now?

What is important for me is that unlike before, where my waiting was very passive, this time I want to change that and overcome my anxiety – and break out of my comfort zone. After all, being in my comfort zone has prevented me from doing so many things and I plan to put an end to that.

The problem I’ve always faced is that whenever I’m about to do something my mind does everything to try and predict that situation and show me the worst possible outcome(s). Once you start to ignore those thoughts and just do those things – which seem so scary at first – you realize that you were just being overly self-critical for no logical reason.

Now let’s be real for a second: sometimes things won’t go well, but I can assure you that they will not be anywhere close to as bad as your mind makes you think.

Let’s take the example of social interactions. I’ve always been very hesitant to start conversations with people because I irrationally assumed they wouldn’t like me. I did always know that this thought was not based on logic or fact, but it has always prevented me from being as social as I would like to be.

Recently I’ve decided to drop that mindset and just talk to people, and most of it has been great. People are much nicer than I had anticipated.

I’ve got three more years of University left and I don’t plan on wasting them, seeing as how I’ve come to terms with the idea of not fitting in.

I feel like it now gives me this immense freedom to just be myself – and I can’t tell you how good it feels. 

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