10 things I wish I had known at University

With university starting in the UK today I thought I would share the ten things I wish I had known when I was a Fresher- 

1. Be the quiet one- I’m  outgoing but to those who don’t me know me this can be, and is often, a misunderstood personality trait. You can indirectly give people too many opinions of yourself, not all of them positive, and in wanting to contribute so much to the conversation you can end up giving too much of yourself away too early. Be the quiet one and leave people guessing rather than assuming who you are.

2. Quality versus quantity fashion- I bought a lot of on trend and super cheap clothing that not only makes me cringe but looks unbelievably cheap in photographs. I wish I had compromised and bought two or three higher end pieces each term. Instead, I threw out about 90% of my wardrobe after university and thought about the hundreds of pounds it had all added up to.

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3. Boyfriends- I wish I had been a lot more honest with myself about where my university relationship was heading – nowhere! I knew I was never going to meet true love on the dance floor at 3 a.m. while a DJ shouted, “Ladies, boom shake the room!”, so I should’ve just broken up with him and enjoyed being single.

4. Choose your friends wisely- We all want to be around the people who everyone else looks up to because their energy is contagious. Some people are aware of this energy and are arrogant beyond belief because they can pick and choose their friends easily while others are genuinely enigmatic and gracious. Distinguish between the two and don’t fall into the trap of choosing a persons social power over their personality, otherwise your university days could be overshadowed by turbulent and one-sided friendships.

5. Drink wisely- Don’t get me wrong, I drank at Uni, but  when you are drunk you can say or do things you truly regret. One particularly bad evening a group of us went out and by the end of the night, a girl had kissed a guy in a serious relationship and another was crying because everyone else but her was up to no good. Luckily I had escaped out the back door for a second dinner and returned only to find one of the girls had fallen flat on her back outside the club. Disaster! Your reputation when drunk can precede your reputation sober, and I would say that that for 99% of us that isn’t a positive thing. Whether you’re the flirt, the crier, the one night stand-er, don’t let that side of you speak on behalf of your awesome sober self. It can take one night of disastrously bad choices to cause months of serious reputation repair.

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6. Treat yourself- You should allow yourself something luxurious as a reward for a great mark or for being studious. I found massages and a gourmet lunch was the perfect treat, which also doubled as alone time to get away from the craziness of university living.

7. Study- I luckily have two degrees, which allowed me not to repeat this mistake twice, but please make time for studying. Getting poor grades when you’re intelligent is an insult yo your potential and it’s an even bigger insult to your future employability. It’s a tough economic climate right now and jobs are hard to get, not studying isn’t an option. Partying in your early twenties is fun but being unemployed in your late twenties is not. It blows the big one. In fact, it blows the biggest one.

8. Take every opportunity- University is packed with rare opportunities- internships, overseas language courses, exchange classes. My advice- do them all. This is something I did do and not only was my exchange the best six months of my life, it looked fantastic on my CV. I was alone in Lyon for half a year, which forced me to come into my own and my French improved dramatically.

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9. Exercise- Not only is joining a sports team a great way to make friends and be social outside of your friendship group, it’s an important way to stay healthy, feel confident and get fit. 

10. Eat right- Ramen noodles, fried chips and pizza are cheap, I agree, but they do nothing for your body. They lack the important nutrients needed to stay healthy and keep your mind focused. When I was a Fresher I treated my body like rubbish.  As a result I got laryngitis in the first week, glandular fever in the first year and someone in my halls of residence got cirrhosis of the liver. That is permanent liver damage from abusing alcohol! Only in my second year did I start to cook my own meals and eat right, which radically changed my ability to recover from illness and concentrate in class.

So for all those starting university- best of luck, stay healthy and enjoy the years ahead. Being at uni  is a rare time- despite being an adult you have little responsibility to do any more than learn, I only wish I could go back and do it all again knowing what I know now. 

Thoughtful Thursdays- What is self-esteem?

Welcome to a new feature called Thoughtful Thursdays where I will introduce and share with you important information and how-to’s on a variety of psychological issues.

While I’m very open to sharing my personal experiences I think it’s important to balance anecdotes with expert advice that you can apply in real life. So for this week’s Thoughtful Thursday feature I asked London psychologist, Dr. Emma Hormoz, to give her professional advice on the issue of self-esteem.

Self-esteem is the mother of all psychological issues, which is why this will be a two part blog post because it’s simply too big a beast to tackle in one go.

My experiences with self-esteem are complicated. I’ve not had much of it, I’ve dreamed of finding it and I’ve worked hard on building it up.

However, even in my late twenties I’m still not entirely sure what self-esteem is. I know I’m not alone in my confusion so I asked Dr. Emma  Hormoz to help answer questions and clarify common misconceptions about this issue.

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Q: Dr. Hormoz, what is self-esteem exactly? Is it the same as self-confidence?

Self-esteem and self-confidence often get confused by most people; but how can we improve on it if we do not quite understand it? Self-esteem refers to how we value (and we think others’ value) our worth, whereas self-confidence can be more related to our skills and abilities. For example, a person may be extremely confident in their ability to do their job, but when it comes to believing someone would love them, they may struggle. Self-esteem and self-confidence are not mutually exclusive, meaning that our self-esteem and self-confidence can fluctuate depending on the situation.

Q: Does self-esteem come from within myself or is it also influenced by my relationships and environment?

Self-esteem can be highly influenced from childhood. During this time we are highly receptive and soak up new information like a sponge as we try to make sense of this world. This makes our early life experiences particularly important in shaping beliefs about ourselves and others. 

So if we had any factors which would have made us question our self-worth as a child, this may contribute to low self-esteem.For example, being bullied by peers could lead one to feel they are not acceptable to others and consequently question their self-worth.If a person believes they have low worth they may act in certain ways which perpetuates this. - EmmaOr another example could be if a person’s parents did not have good self-esteem, then they may not have been able to instil this in their child. It is important to note that these are examples, and every person is different and experiences situations differently.

To really know what has lead your low self-esteem requires thinking about your experiences as an individual and the meaning of these experiences to you. Of course negative experiences as an adult can also knock our self-confidence and in turn our self-esteem. Examples can be a bad relationship, losing a job etc.

If a person believes they have low worth they may act in certain ways which perpetuates this. For example, putting up with a negative friendship or relationship because they find it hard to believe they deserve more. Or remaining in a job they are unhappy with because they feel they could not achieve anything better.

Q: Is it up to me to boost my self-esteem or can I also rely on others to help increase it?

It is a tricky idea to rely on others to increase our self-esteem – remember that self-esteem is all about how we value ourselves. Your friends and partner can value you extremely highly, but if you think of yourself as worthless, they cannot change that. I would say that while we cannot rely on others to improve our self-esteem, we should make sure that the people around us are not perpetuating our feeling of worthlessness.

The good news is that by understanding what has contributed to our low self-esteem, and understanding what continues to maintain that, we can make changes and improve how we feel about ourselves.

Big thanks to Dr. Emma Hormoz for answering those questions. Watch this space for her second post on how to boost your self-esteem.  

About Dr. Emma Hormoz

Dr Emma Hormoz is a Psychologist and CBT therapist who works in London. She is trained to offer Cognitive behaviour therapyEmma Hormoz(CBT), Psychodynamic counselling and integrative therapy.

She predominantly works with adults with a range of mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, social phobia, low self-esteem, health anxiety and much more. Visit her website for more information.