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Living Through the Eyes of Others: A Personal Struggle of Finding Self-Identity.

Posted by Alexandra Van Rijn on


Recently, I have come across a situation that is putting me back in a mindset that I thought I had escaped a while ago. There is nothing more earth shattering than being in the midst of finals week and you get this sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, like the past three years of self-growth and appreciation have been for nothing; because once again, I find myself defining myself through the eyes of others. 

Over the past three years, it hasn’t always been an uphill journey, but I have made considerable progress since leaving the confines of my high school. When I was there, I was all about pleasing others. I’m sure many of you may understand what I mean. With my social anxiety, I felt a strong need to be defined by the people I was with because I felt like their opinions of me were more important than my own opinions of myself. I would grovel and gift to maintain unhealthy friendships if I believed that I needed this person in order to help define myself. 

When deciding to go to a university that no one else from my high school was going to, I was conflicted. I was unsure of whether I would need to find a new group to define me, or whether I would be brave and confident enough to define myself. Through my time at University of California, Berkeley, I slowly began to realize that I did have the power to shape how others viewed me. I got to decide what clubs I joined, what would become a part of my identity at Cal. 

Within the past week, I’ve noticed myself reverting back to my old habits. I’ve noticed that when people in the same room as me laugh, I immediately think it is directed towards me. I have become self-conscious in my sorority house, which has always been my only safe space. While it is frustrating to me to be back in this mindset that I thought I had escaped what feels like eons ago, I have also realized that this is just a new opportunity for me to grow and develop – a new, yet stressful, chance for me to determine how I feel about myself. 

And I’ve realized that we cannot leave behind who we once were; it does not disappear once we’ve decided that we’ve “moved on”. It simply becomes a part of us, a small memory in the back of our heads to remind us of how far we’ve come on our personal journeys. It will never leave us, but serve to help us humble and better ourselves when we come across such triggering situations. These memories are not there to hurt, but to make us stronger in the face of uncontrollable events. We must not try to forget, but remember to accept because our pasts are what make us who we are today. 

While I talked a lot about myself in this piece, I just want those reading to know that if you wind up taking a step back, it’s okay. You can always move forward again, but this time with slightly more insight about yourself then you had the time before. 

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” 

-Henry Ford

Written by Campus Rep Hannah Farrell 


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