self discovery

Until You Learn To Love Yourself

Last week, with Ne-Yo’s Let Me Love You playing in the background at the gym (yes, I like Ne-Yo), I started to let the song’s lyrics sink in for the first time. For those unfamiliar with this song, the basic premise is that “I will love you until you learn to love yourself.” As much as I find Ne-Yo’s lyrics incredibly sweet and romantic, my practical side can’t help but question whether or not the song describes a particularly healthy relationship.

Ne-Yo sings to a girl who has never known love and who doesn’t have a particularly high opinion of herself, either. In the song, he promises to serve as the self esteem and love that she’s missing. However, although our significant others should build us up when we’re down and believe in us when we have our doubts, we shouldn’t be in a place where we need them to do this for us all the time.

This may sound harsh — and it would imply that a lot of people who are currently in relationships shouldn’t be — but until we learn to love ourselves, we shouldn’t call upon someone else to do that for us. If you are unhappy more often than you are happy with the world around you, then it doesn’t matter how perfect someone is, because you’re just not ready to be in a relationship. If you don’t love yourself (or, at the very least, like yourself), then you can’t reciprocate the wonderful support that you receive from your significant other, regardless of how willing that person is to be there for us. Is that fair to the person you care about?

Your boyfriend or girlfriend should seek to boost your confidence, but that shouldn’t be the primary goal. A relationship should be mutually beneficial, and as mentioned before, that can be nearly impossible when Person A is always questioning himself or herself, and wondering what Person B sees in him or her. Similarly, when we aren’t happy with ourselves, we don’t always pursue the healthiest relationships. As Stephen Chbosky writes in one of my favorite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Therefore, if we don’t love ourselves, we might remain in relationships with people who treat us poorly because we don’t think we deserve any better.

Ultimately, building your self image is difficult, and often a work in progress. In fact, most of us have a long way to go before we realize how much we truly deserve. Until you learn to love or like yourself, it’s best to take some time to yourself and reflect upon what makes you happy. Develop yourself in the best way you can, strengthen your platonic relationships, discover a hobby, and think about everything you are thankful for. Only after you’ve rebuilt yourself and found your version of happiness on your own can you accept the love of another person.

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 2)

After a year of writing about all things college-related, I would like to celebrate my 12 months of Freshman 15 entries with a follow-up to my very first college post from my old blog, The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned. Throughout my sophomore year, I have experienced a new set of successes and challenges, and I hope to share everything I have learned this year with you.

Thank you all for giving me a wonderful year for writing! Here are 15 of the lessons I learned in my sophomore year of college.Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: What I’ve Learned (Year 2)

1. Don’t put dish soap in the dishwasher…
… Unless you want soap suds all over your kitchen! Oops. This was a mistake I made a few weeks ago, when my roommates and I had run out of dish detergent. The moral to the story: even when you think you’ve begun to master the art of being a domestic goddess, you’re wrong. There will always be some little mistake that will humble you.

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2. Friendships don’t always turn out as predicted.
In fact, when I wrote the original Freshman 15, I couldn’t have predicted half of the things that were about to happen in the next year. While I did gain some very close friendships that seemed unlikely at the time (but for which I’m extremely grateful, of course!), I also lost a few that really stung. In the end, it’s important to be careful with who you place your trust in, and accept the fact that things may change in the future.

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3. Extra credit can be your best friend.
If your professor offers some sort of extra credit assignment, DO IT. By skipping out on one extra credit assignment in a psychology class in the fall, I managed to give my GPA its first minor blemish. It wasn’t the end of the world, of course, but I was not a happy camper, to say the least. By going the extra mile, you can sometimes salvage a borderline grade or even give yourself a bit of a cushion in case you mess up a little on a test later in the semester.

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4. Discipline is key.
The only way you can really manage your time and get all of your assignments completed is by being disciplined. This means sometimes staying home from a night out with friends so that you can finish a paper, or bringing a homework assignment to lunch with you, or even keeping a million alarms on your phone. Whatever it takes for you to be productive, you have to bite the bullet and do it.

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5. You can’t be or do everything.
College is probably the most exciting time for opportunities, and I encourage you to take part in as many of them as you can. However, as I’ve learned this year, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do. As Director of Fundraising for one of the clubs I’m in, web developer for a research group, PR intern, member of various clubs and full-time student, there have been times when my schedule felt too heavy. On top of that, because of my heavy involvement, I would hear about other opportunities that appealed to me, and it was difficult not to apply for them. Ultimately, you have to know your limits, and don’t sign up for anything you can’t commit to. I knew students who dabbled in everything but never fully committed to anything, and it became frustrating for both them and the people they had to work with. Find a few things you love and stick to those.

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6. Attend functions alone.
Yes, college gives you the chance to be a social butterfly, but sometimes it is much better to go to events by yourself. I love my friends, but when I want to go to an educational event like the Book Festival or an ad agency tour or some event with keynote speakers, I want to be able to schedule my time however I choose, without having to compromise with someone else. Going to an event by yourself not only gives you the freedom to do as you please, but it also allows you to meet new people with similar interests, reconnect with others and learn about yourself.

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7. Going home is never quite the same.
Ever since my first summer away at school, my family has told me how much I have changed. I knew that college tends to change the dynamic between you and your parents, but that fact never fails to surprise me a little every time I come home. I also notice huge changes between myself and old friends from high school, and although some of those friendships are built to last, I can see that others will easily falter. Being back home is a huge reminder of how much things have changed.

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8. 5-Hour Energy can have delayed effects.
On Sunday, I finally gave in to the pressure of surplus energy. I have never tried an energy drink before, and I don’t drink coffee or soda, but all of my friends were getting their caffeine somehow, so why couldn’t I? I took a shot of 5-Hour Energy at 8 p.m. (first mistake) and then didn’t feel the effects till around 1 a.m., when it was too late for me to regain any of my productivity. The good news: I woke up the next morning with tons of energy to power me through the day. The bad news: the three hours of sleep I did squeeze in probably wasn’t healthy. In the end, 5 Hour Energy was not a great alternative.

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9. The thing you wanted most isn’t always what you wanted it to be.
Unfortunately, some of your expectations will fall short. Maybe the class you were dying to take just isn’t cutting it for you, or maybe the club you have been trying to get involved with isn’t the place you want to be anymore. Be open to those feelings and realize that even if this isn’t what you want, there’s always something else.

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10. Plan as much as you can, but allow changes.
It’s good to have a basic mental outline of where you want to go in the next four years, but don’t be upset if you begin to deviate from that path. I enrolled in college as a Journalism major who then considered Psychology, English, Creative Writing, Sociology, Elementary Education, Anthropology and Humanities before eventually switching over to Advertising/Public Relations with minors in Psychology and Spanish-turned-English-turned-possibly-Hospitality-Management. In other words, your interests might change. Your academic and career plans might change. Have ideas, but have back-up plans too.

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11. It’s okay to stop and breathe.
This is something that the perfectionist in me often struggles with, but one of the most important things I have worked on. It doesn’t matter where you find that inner-peace, whether it’s through yoga and meditation, an intense workout at the gym or a creative release, as long as you can find something to keep you grounded.

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12. Perfection is impossible.
This one goes hand-in-hand with #11. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how strong or competent or intelligent you are — you will still mess up from time to time. Accept those mistakes as they come, and try to learn whatever you can from them. As Confucius once said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Only do our true colors show when we are put to the test.

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13. Be good to others, whether they deserve it or not.
I have always lived by this, even though many of my friends disagree with me to an extent and think I should act on my frustrations a little more. Still, I refuse to stoop down to someone’s level just because they have wronged me in the past. I think it’s better to be cordial than to seek revenge on someone; chances are, they don’t have much going for them to begin with!

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14. Don’t let your relationships define you.
I’ve said this before, but it is important to recognize yourself as a separate entity and not as an appendage to someone else. I spent my first year and a half of college focused on relationships, spending way more time focusing on boys and friends than on myself. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time before someone will disappoint you — and it’s important to have something else going for you aside from all of that. Don’t ignore the world of dating and don’t neglect your friends, either, but do make time to do the things you love and to better yourself. It’s one of the most valuable things you can do.

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15. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.
(Yes, that’s part of a possible Marilyn Monroe quote.) I thought I had the perfect freshman year. My sophomore year was a lot rockier and I am definitely happy to be done with it in the next few days. But I have to remind myself that all of the negative things that happened this year have allowed me to grow and make room for better things in the future. Above all else, we have to have hope that even when the year absolutely sucks, things will eventually improve.

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Some questions for you:

- What have you learned this year?
– What are you still wondering/struggling with?
- What do you hope to read about in the future? 

The Freshman 15: Things I Wish I’d Done Differently

With the year of 2010 coming to a close, we compile our lists of resolutions — ways we would like to change in the upcoming year. In creating these lists, we often look back on the past year and reflect upon what we could have improved upon. Therefore, in the December edition of the Freshman 15, I will talk about the things I wish I had done in my freshman year of college that would have improved my college experience even more.

Although I enjoyed my freshman year and found it a successful one, I did make mistakes from time to time (as we all do!) and from them I learned how I would do things differently in the future. For all current freshmen and incoming college students, try and keep some of these in mind as you make your way through that first year! :)

Here are the 15 things I wish I’d done differently in college. Learn from them! – Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Things I Wish I’d Done Differently

1. Make health a priority.
Living on-campus meant that pizza and other dining hall food quickly became staples of my diet, which once included fruits, vegetables and vitamins. Combining this with the fact that I lived in close proximity to hundreds of other people and attended classes with tens of thousands of them, I was bound to get sick sooner or later. During my first fall semester of college alone, I ended up with the flu, two ear infections and ultimately mono. Although this may have just been bad luck and could have happened to anyone, I honestly think that by disregarding my health entirely, I made myself a lot more vulnerable to illness. Moral of the story: take your Vitamin C, eat junk foods in moderation and carry hand sanitizer everywhere you go!

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2. Pay attention to on-campus opportunities early on.
Yes, I managed to get involved in a few clubs by the end of my freshman year, but I also missed out on an entire semester during which I could have been meeting new people and becoming a greater part of my school. Although I spent a great deal of that semester in the Health Center and catching up on assignments, I avoided a lot of the socials until my spring semester. Having developed a group of friends early on, I was convinced that I didn’t need to get involved right away, and now, looking back, I wish I hadn’t taken that attitude. In the spring of my freshman year, I decided to try out some of the organizations, and quickly found my home in one of them. The earlier you get involved, the better — you’ll get to utilize some of the older students as mentors, and have a greater connection to the club when you’re an upperclassman and you want to obtain an officer position.

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3. Connect with faculty.
As you begin to apply for internships, scholarships and various jobs, you will need to compile a reference list — and no, these references shouldn’t be limited to the people who knew you in high school. Go to your professors’ office hours and talk to them about assistantships and research opportunities. Connect with the ones you like and ask for help when you need it. This year, I finally became acquainted with the faculty in my honors college — the people who had always offered help but whom I was afraid I would burden — and they really were willing to answer my questions and point me in the right direction. One of them even connected me to a professor who offered me a job! If I had pursued these relationships a year ago, I can’t even imagine where I’d be today. The sooner you get to know your professors and advisers, the better!

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4. Settle into a healthy sleep cycle.
No matter how old you are, sleep is the best way to let your mind and body recharge. However, because college presents so many new challenges and opportunities, you may start to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to really get the rest you need. The old joke goes that if your options are good grades, a social life and a healthy sleep cycle, it is only possible for you to obtain two of those. During my freshman year, I definitely sacrificed those hours of sleep in favor of other things, and my body did not thank me for it. The point is, if you develop good sleep habits now, they are more likely to stick with you in the years to come, leading to greater productivity and success!

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5. Attend more athletic events.
For a lot of college students, this one isn’t even remotely a problem — and tailgating on Saturday mornings is as routine as brushing one’s teeth. For someone like me, who doesn’t fully comprehend the rules of football and tends to get bored by halftime, athletic events aren’t quite as exciting. But while I’m not always enamored with every aspect of a game, I wish I did attend more of them, if only to show off my school spirit, cheer on my classmates and enjoy the overall atmosphere. Besides, they are a fun (and often free, depending on what school you attend) way to socialize with your friends and truly feel like a part of something.

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6. Focus less on relationships.
Okay, we’re in our late teens and twenties, so naturally one of our first priorities is dating. We think about it all the time: who’s hooking up with whom, who broke up, who got back together, what that text from that boy meant, etc. Although dating and relationships can be fun and worthwhile, however, they shouldn’t take over our lives. I found that I spent entirely too much of my first year of college worrying about relationships and non-relationships, regardless of what my status was with whomever I liked at the time. I also learned that you cannot let anyone be the sole cause of your happiness — and by putting too much stock in the whole world of dating, you are not giving yourself enough credit. There’s a time and place for everything, and I’m not suggesting that you ignore a connection with someone when you feel it, but please don’t let those connections control your emotions entirely.

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7. Find a way to present yourself well.
As a freshman, you may not have to apply for too many jobs or positions yet, but eventually you will want to become a leader on campus and you will need to know how to show people the very best you have to offer. Last year, I wanted to obtain a coveted position in one of the organizations on campus, and when the interview itself came around, I wasn’t prepared for the type of self-marketing I was expected to do, and I didn’t get the job. Over time, I’ve done a lot of self-discovery and reflected upon my strengths and weaknesses, and I think that really helped me in obtaining several internship offers for this upcoming semester. If only I had learned this sooner, I may have been another step ahead.

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8. Know your school’s limitations, especially on holiday weekends.
I began college in the middle of the summer, and wound up spending the 4th of July Weekend up at school. While most of my friends had gone home for the holiday, I was not about to chicken out on my first weekend of college. Instead, I stayed at school with two other friends and a ghost town for a campus. Without a car at the time (this was before I got my trusty car, Carlos), we were basically stranded — no restaurants at school were open, and our dorm rooms were not well-equipped for cooking our own food. Eventually we befriended someone who was willing to take us to Publix and the local sub shop, but the weekend was extremely boring and the school was not prepared for the students who had stayed behind. Although I wouldn’t suggest going home at every chance you get, I would strongly recommend finding out the school’s accommodations before sticking around on a holiday weekend, especially if you don’t have a convenient means of transportation.

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9. Utilize the resources on campus.
Chances are, your school has lots of these… and many of them will go unused. When I needed advice on a major after switching from Journalism, I visited Career Services, and later on, I returned for assistance with my resume. However, there were plenty of other places on campus I should have become acquainted with at one point or another: the Writing Center and the Math Lab, for example. Whether you need help with a paper or one-on-one tutoring, there’s usually some resource available to help you, and you’d be crazy not to take advantage of it!

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10. Don’t rush into relationships or trust too much too soon.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, college relationships (both romantic AND platonic) are notorious for moving quickly. Because you’re getting to know so many people in a much closer capacity in a shorter period of time than ever before, bonding with those people you meet is inevitable. The trouble is, not only does this put too much pressure on a friendship or relationship that is still very new, but it also causes us to trust people with our darkest secrets before they’ve proven themselves trustworthy. Although several of the people I met early on are some of my closest friends today, there have been some surprises over the past year and at times I wish I hadn’t rushed into certain friendships so quickly. Be open to meeting new people and sharing your experiences, but don’t share everything right away — some things should be reserved for the people who have earned them.

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11. Write down your goals.
Having an active list of what you want to accomplish throughout the year (much like New Year’s Resolutions) helps you to track your growth and progress over time. I came into college with a lot of expectations, and looking back, I wish I had kept track of those to see what I actually achieved and what values changed. Before I began my sophomore year, I posted my goals for the year to my Facebook Notes, and over the past several months, I have gone in and crossed off each goal as I’ve met it (and added the date next to it for added organization). Your list doesn’t have to be so public — I keep mine that way in order to share my dreams with others — but you should definitely make one and then refer back to it often.

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12. Find an outlet.
In just one week of college, you will find yourself juggling a full course load, club meetings and a social life — and sometimes it may feel like you don’t have time to breathe. To avoid total insanity, try finding a way to relax from it all. Go to the gym, take a walk outside, paint something… the world is yours. In April, I found one release that allowed me to relax while doing what I loved, and that release was blogging! Throughout my freshman year, I found that some of my passions had been ignored, especially writing and reading (more on how I plan to change the latter in my next blog post!). Don’t ignore what makes you happy – instead, make it a priority to do those things at least once each week.

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13. Make yourself a bigger priority in your own life.
This is YOUR life! It may be admirable to help your friends and neighbors out from time to time, but you do need to find ways to do things for yourself. For much of my first semester, I assumed it was my responsibility to take care of some of the others, even if that took away from time I could have spent studying or relaxing on my own. While I am still learning about becoming assertive and learning to do what is best for myself, I have begun making time for me. This is probably one of the most valuable lessons I could learn in college.

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14. Keep in touch with the people you want in your life.
Don’t feel obligated to maintain relationships with people you didn’t mesh well with in high school or college,but make sure you don’t ignore the ones you do want to remain friends with. I met so many people in the first two weeks of my fall semester of freshman year and was so busy with them that I was too exhausted to really keep up with a lot of them once things began to settle down. Although I wound up with a close-knit group of friends that I loved, I knew there were others I still wanted to see, and ultimately I learned to make those get-togethers happen for themselves. Don’t lose touch with someone you really like simply due to laziness!

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15. Don’t expect perfection.
As an eternal perfectionist, this is something I struggle with constantly, and it is both my strength and my downfall. At times I forget how much I have accomplished, even if I am not perfect, and have to remind myself that I am human. As you begin your college career, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as smoothly as you think they should. You are in a brand new environment that is constantly changing, and you are adjusting to a completely different way of life. Allow yourself to be the best you can be, and don’t expect yourself to be a superhero every single day.

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I hope these tips are helpful as you make your way into the new year! Some questions to consider:

- For my older readers, what do you wish you could have changed about your freshman year/college experience as a whole?

- How did college help you grow as a person?

- What topics are you hoping to learn more about in The Freshman 15 series? Anything you would like me to address in the upcoming months?