New term, new you

New term, new you

To ease the transition into the new

As a new academic year dawns, it’s time for some new beginnings – new class, new school, new college, new city (maybe even new country), new teachers, new subjects, new friends, new peer group, new environment, new pressures and new expectations. It could all get too much sometimes and catch you off guard. So, maybe it will be worthwhile to spend a few minutes pondering about how you can be better prepared for the changes involved.

Know Yourself

Know yourself, but most importantly know your strengths, because that is what gives you the strength and energy to propel yourself forward. You will be surprised to know that most people who come into my counselling room find this the toughest exercise to do.

They are self-critical and know their weaknesses all too well. But their strengths – they genuinely believe they don’t have any, or hardly any. So try this exercise for yourself, now. Not in your mind. But write it down on paper.

And make sure you have dug deep into yourself to be able to write at least ten (if you can find more than ten, by all means write more). As a word of caution, strengths are not only things you are good at or can do well (i.e. those which are externally visible to others); strengths are also qualities and virtues that you believe are good about you (things like honesty, perseverance, empathy, etc.)

These are the ‘foundation’ on which the ‘building’, that is you, is built on. The stronger the better. So go ahead and dig for the gold within you, and then put up this list in a place where it is constantly visible to you — could be on the bathroom mirror, or in front of your desk or inside your wardrobe, for example. And once you have this list, take stock of how you feel, knowing that you have these strengths.

Believe in yourself and your ability to deal with situations. Believe that your worth comes not from what you do, what you achieve or how many marks you get, but from who you are. You are equal to your peers, you are as important. Even though you may be not as good at some things as some of them, you have your own strengths and you are good enough as you are. That is not to say you should not strive to do your best and put in your best effort. You must, because nothing gives you more satisfaction than being the best version of yourself that you can be. This is about you, not about anyone else. So give yourself your best shot.

One of the things that can make or break your experience of the ‘new’ environment — whatever that may be – is the people you hang out with. When trying to find friends, always ask yourself, “Are they good enough for me?” rather than what you probably ask by default, which is “Am I good enough for them?” You are good enough.

You don’t need to ask yourself that. Give yourself some importance and see if the people you are choosing to hang out with are worthy of your companionship. Do they have it in them to help you grow? Or are they going to systematically demolish you and send you in a downward spiral? You have control on whom you choose, and you have control on how you let them impact you, and how much importance you give to everything they say and do. Exercise your control. And if you know yourself, and believe in yourself, this becomes so much easier.

Name your fears

Newness can become overwhelmingly fear-provoking because it means you need to deal with the unknown. When you find yourself in such a situation ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Name that worst outcome. When it is an amorphous thing it can be too much to handle. When you define the nature of the beast you are dealing with, you can also define a plan for facing it. And in naming your fear and recognising it, most of the time you will realise that even if your worst fear were to come true, it is something you can work your way through and survive, maybe even thrive.

It is okay if everyone does not like you. Learn to say “No.” Often a debilitating thought for some is that people may not like them. Remember that it is not necessary, nor is it possible, for everyone to like you. The same way that you probably like some people more than others, and you are indifferent to others, other people may like you more, less or not at all. That is not important because whether a person (be it a teacher or peer or anyone else) likes you or not is a function of their own values and beliefs and really has nothing to do with you. So it is okay if some people do not like you. Often the fear that a person may not like you gets in the way of your being able to say no to them, even when you want to, or need to. Learn to say “No” to people or things that do not sit well with you. In the process if some people do not like you, so be it — that really is their loss, not yours.

Enjoy the journey

Some failure and obstacles as you go down life’s path is inevitable. It is merely a way of life giving you a chance to learn some important life lessons. It does not need to define you unless you let it. You may have merely failed at achieving something. This is not the same thing as telling yourself that you are a failure. When you fail at something, you give yourself the chance of telling yourself that there are so many other aspects of your life that you have not failed at. When you believe you are a failure, you deny yourself these other chances of not failing. Stay the course, but even if you stray off for a bit, believe that you have it in you to get back on track, and that a minor deviation does not have to define the path of your life.

Whether success or failure, good times or bad, everything passes and moves on to the next thing. Good times do not last forever, and neither do bad times. While you are in the midst of bad times and events that may seem like failures, remembering that this too shall pass gives you hope for the future.

To conclude, while you go through this next encounter with the unknown, be mindful of your self-talk and never lose hope. In the words of Helen Keller, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” If necessary, reach out to a counsellor for help if this is something you are struggling with.

But most importantly, remember to have fun and enjoy the journey — this phase of life will pass you by quicker than you can believe.

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