by Chantelle Curtis
As of September, Rutgers will have an immense influx of freshmen, an invasion of 7,000 new personalities on a very large campus. Between that and the rest of the upperclassmen, it is easy to get lost. You want to tell yourself that you are just like everyone else, sitting quietly in a lecture hall of 400 as the professor awaits on someone to answer his question. You debate raising your hand, afraid to show your ideas, in fear of being sneered at because you are fighting against the grain. But why? It is important to stand out, to be different and innovative with your thoughts and who you are but be comfortable all the while doing it. That, of course, is key right? Comfort? Confidence?
Throughout college many times others will question some things about you and tell you their unneeded viewpoints on such. Your clothes, your hair, the way you carry yourself, your thoughts, your opinions, your entire entity. Sometimes some of those probed words slide in one ear and cut deep into your brain, and you really begin to question yourself. Are they right? Am I wrong? But you shouldn’t speculate too much on the matter.
As an Afro-Latina on campus I’ve ran into a few instances where I questioned myself because I carried myself differently from the people I surrounded myself with.
One of the things was my hair. The few times I wore my curls I got hit with “Oh. What happened to your straight hair?” I would go through lengths to straighten my curly hair so I wouldn’t have to hear comments from others that may have swayed me the wrong way. But that would only happen if I allowed it to, if I too, believe it myself. You may say “I believe in this,” and try to stand your ground but it isn’t hard to go against your own thoughts when thousands of people are yelling back at you “NO.” As the natural hair movement began to rise, I became more and more comfortable with my curls to the point where the sight of a flat iron deterred me. Now I rock my natural hair everyday, with a group of friends who do so right alongside me. Do I wish I had done so from the beginning? Yes. Do I look back and regret the journey? No. because it shaped how I see myself today.
But what about things more important, like your major? And who you are? At a top research university you might find yourself questioning, “What do I believe in” when there’s an array of opinions from so many students from different walks of life. Especially if you are majoring in something that could be controversial such as women and gender studies for example, which usually has the few feminists who are constantly being challenged.
You want your voice to be heard but you’re unsure because with every comment and outlook, there’s a group of 10 people to tell you that you are wrong.
You must have confidence in your message, and enough belief in yourself that people will feel it too and become inspired by who you are, your message, your journey and who you aspire to become. Then you won’t only stand out but you’ll become a leader, and you’ll have people following right after you, making you wonder why you ever doubted yourself in the first place. Through your understanding of self you have inspired others to dig deep and articulate their own voice, formulate who they are.
Although it might seem tricky and scary there are a few ways you can help prepare yourself mentally for what is to come your way this year. The best way to avoid feeling lost or insecure is to have confidence in the way you carry yourself and true love for what you are trying to bring to the people. Be that first person to raise their hand on the first class, dare to be wrong and learn from it. It’s all part of the process, embrace it all. Learn to fully love yourself so no one can tell you anything otherwise, you never know who you’ll touch on the way.