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The most important lesson I learned during my undergraduate years in California is to never doubt yourself. Ever since I was really young, I was always outgoing, a little weird, and confident in myself. My parents always supported my eccentricity, and never made me feel that I should change who I was. If you know me in real life, you know that I like to be silly, and I will never hold back on saying what's on my mind. For the first few years of my college career, that part of me disappeared. Because I doubted myself and listened to other people, instead of holding my head high and being proud of who I was. So, I suppose this is a little story that I hope will touch some people out there who are doubting themselves, and holding back from who they really are because of what other people are saying.
When I first moved to the States, I was really nervous about making friends. I was at the same school for 15 years before that and never really had to make new friends, as I've had the same friends all my life. My graduating class consisted of 23 (24?) people and 11 of them were veterans. That being said, moving to a new country, starting school where I didn't know anyone, was nerve-wrecking to say the least. At orientation, I was so blessed in that I clicked with almost everyone I met. I found a group of girls and guys who were probably just as nervous as I was, and I was excited to be starting school with this group of people who I felt would be my friends for the next four years.
Fast forward to the middle of my freshman year. At that point, I had become very close with a lot of people, but at the same time, I wasn't sure I was really able to bare my all. The girls were catty; they called me names, but in a sarcastic matter that made me think it was normal. I still remember sitting in the CalTrain with one of my guy friends discussing this uncomfortable situation. I asked him, "I don't know if it's me, but I feel like I'm being attacked all the time. Maybe it's just the culture here and I'm not used to it?" He shook his head and told me that it was evident to everyone around us that they were simply mean, and picking on me. Instead of changing friends, and moving on, I decided to ignore his statement and continue trying to fit in. I held back on things I wanted to say, I catered to everyones needs, and allowed myself to be walked on by people. My "friends" talked about me behind my back, put me in situations I felt uncomfortable in, left me out on purpose, and so much more I don't even know where to begin. My confidence that I had always had was gone. I felt the need to join in the catty remarks and the judgement that these people passed onto others, who really didn't deserve it.
I don't know what it was, but something clicked within me at some point during my sophomore year. I had started drifting from these girls, and had subconsciously been hanging out a lot more with my boyfriend at the time. My "friends" would complain about it, but I think the truth of the matter was that I would much rather hang out with someone who really appreciated me and respected me, than these girls who loved to see me down. My friends from home came to visit, and couldn't believe what I was putting myself through. Perhaps it was then that I realized I didn't deserve to be treated the way I was and that I needed to remember who I was. I have a unique spirit, and I love to help others when I can, and I was being taken advantage of. I am not mean, and I don't want to make people feel bad about themselves, but that's who I was becoming because of my attempt at trying to "fit in" and be liked.
I decided that I needed to go back to the beginning, to remember who I was. As terrible as this sounds, I cut out the people who were putting me down. I reached out to a girl from Japan, Sarah, who I had met in college and started seeing her more often. I felt so much more comfortable, and the person who I was started to return. Now, I will not allow myself to be weak like the person I became. I am proud of who I am - I have fantastic friends and I treat them the way friends are supposed to be treated. I don't let people bring me down and I speak out for what I think is right. Of course, there are moments of weakness when I let things get to me, and sometimes I slip up and do something to hurt my friends, but I will always own up to it and I am always willing to change for the better.
So the moral of this long-winded, boring story is that you shouldn't let anyone tear you down. Nobody deserves it and I will bet you that the people who try, are the ones who actually have no or very low self-esteem. It takes someone who is hurting inside, to be ugly enough in the inside to hurt others the way they do. So instead of holding it against them, feel sorry for them and let it help you grow. Being strong doesn't mean be a bitch - it means to have self-confidence in yourself, and never let yourself be treated any less than you deserve to be.