Being vulnerable is a virtue

Growing up, I was always known as the quiet girl, easily frightened. In high school, I tried my absolute hardest to be a follower and to fit in with whatever group would let me into their circle. I went out of my way for people who didn’t care about me or appreciate me whatsoever just so I could have something to do on Friday nights. I spent years and years listening to people, and in the end I kept my own opinions to myself and simply agreed with those who I deemed more important than myself. Why? Because it was easy and provided a sense of security.

I still struggle with making decisions that could potentially leave me looking or feeling vulnerable. It’s not easy, and it’s especially not easy on this campus. The pressure to stick to the status quo can be suffocating. Too often I see students shy away from change. Too often I see students frustrated, yet too afraid to admit they don’t know something. Too often I see students lose their individuality for the sake of fitting in.

I’m guilty of it too. I shy away from being vulnerable.

I shy away from standing up for myself, from asking for help, from saying no, from trying something new, from failure, and from admitting I’m afraid.

But college is about finding yourself. College is about discovering your passions and dislikes, unearthing what your future career might be, and building character through each and every experience.

Without taking some risks, however, this is essentially impossible to achieve. Granted, playing it safe might leave you feeling accepted, but what I’ve come to realize is that sacrificing my authenticity as a person isn’t going to get me anywhere in life. So yes, I may lose some “friends” along the way. I may have to stand alone. I may have to admit that I’m wrong, or that I don’t know something. I may have to occasionally show people that I’m not 100 percent always put together and on my A-game, and that’s okay.

I’m a firm believer that adversity fosters growth and strength. For you Disney fans out there, I believe Walt said it best: “All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me ... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

So fail, multiple times, and keep trying until you get the outcome you desire. Put your ideas into action and establish an organization, or find someone who can help carry out your visions. Ignore the stigmas and stereotypes that this campus has created, and sit by someone you normally wouldn’t sit by and introduce yourself. Share your opinions, even if people disagree with you or whisper behind your back. Do what you love, and disregard all the individuals who try and make you feel as if what you’re doing isn’t worthwhile.

In the grand scheme of things, these are only four short years we spend with people who are for the most part–temporary. It’s a sad, scary realization but a true one. This campus, as beautiful and as wonderful as it may be, won’t be our home forever. So I challenge you, instead of letting this campus mold and shape you, decide to mold and shape this campus. You will inevitably mold and shape yourself in the process. 

Alex Smith is a sophomore majoring in political science and communications. Her column runs biweekly. 

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