Kianna Garmanian, Staff Writer
Dear Kianna, I’m having some trouble “fitting in” and making friends in college. I always feel like an outsider and have a hard time building solid relationships with others. Do you have any advice? -Feeling Socially Outcast
Dear Outcast, I want to applaud you for your bravery in sending in this message. Talking about fitting in and being accepted by others can often be difficult to discuss. I get it. I totally understand what you are saying and hear where you are coming from. We all want to be liked and cherished by our peers, and this can be especially difficult when beginning college or being placed in new social situations (i.e. a new job, school, living environment, etc.) And, even if it’s not your first year in college or you didn’t begin a new job, it’s still totally normal to experience feeling left out or excluded.
In fact, for three out of the four years of high school, I really resonated with the exact feelings you described in your letter. I always struggled with wanting to “fit in,” whether this meant athletically, academically, or socially. This is quite common and by having conversations with my high school peers, I realized I was not alone when it came to the pursuit of inclusion and friendship.
In high school, I remember eating lunch in our cafeteria with individuals I didn’t even really desire to be hanging around. But, out of fear of sitting by myself and looking like a complete “loner,” I always found some table to sit at. There even were moments when these individuals were disrespectful or treated me poorly, yet my fear of being left out was so consuming that I still chose to sit by them at lunch time. I was so focused on my image and what others would think of me if I sat by myself or didn’t sit with the “popular” groups, that I ended up experiencing a lot of difficult lunch situations.
By the time my senior year of high school rolled around, I had gained something great. Confidence. It helped that I was at the top of the food chain as a senior, but several other factors also played a role in the development of confidence within me. As my faith and relationship with Christ grew throughout my high school years, I began placing more of my trust in Jesus and started to learn how to see myself and others through the eyes of Christ.
So, what did this mean for me? Yes, I wasn’t ever going to be “popular”, or liked by all my peers, especially because I had no desire to join along with the groups of individuals who wanted to party and get drunk all the time. If being popular meant I had to get completely wasted, popularity was simply not worth it for me. Through prayer, Jesus helped me discover my true worth and beauty as an individual, which will never be dictated by what others think of me or whether I “fit in.”
So, my first piece of advice for you: Don’t ever change yourself or compromise your beliefs just to “fit in” with others or be well-liked. It’s much easier said than done, but make an effort to develop confidence within yourself. Pray and ask the Lord for help, and I promise, I know from personal experience, that he will come to your assistance. Finally, during my senior year of high school, I wasn’t so afraid to sit by myself at times. And, I really started to branch out and meet new friends who brought out the best in me and were positive influences in my life. I no longer sat by groups of people that brought negativity in my life or felt pressured to hang with the popular crowds.
My second piece of advice: Take time to invest in solid friendships. Try to look for individuals who share common interests, beliefs, hobbies, and most importantly, who encourage you to be the best person you can be. The right friends and right people will come with time and patience. Start having conversations with others and taking part in new clubs/activities to meet people. But, most of all, be confident in yourself. The secret to confidence is self-love. If you don’t love yourself or view yourself through the eyes of Christ, who loves you more than you can every imagine, the confidence will never come. So, take charge, have faith, and trust in yourself and Jesus. God Bless.