Mar 25th, 2023, 11:10 AM

How to Gain Self-Fulfillment in Your University Years

By Paulina Kudevita
Discover three major ways to amplify your personal growth during your time as a university student.

In an age where we have access to any information we want and are constantly overwhelmed with stimulation and comparison, it may be hard to find deeper, more sustainable ways to grow into the best versions of ourselves. I have narrowed down 3 major ways to start or maintain your journey of growth from a recent high school graduate to an AUP alumni. There's no time like the present, as it is truly about the journey, not the destination. 


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1. Self love

Self-love is necessary to love others fully, and maintain healthy relationships. After all, how can you really love someone if you don't love yourself? With such a simple straightforward concept, there are many aspects that tie into having a good relationship with yourself. Firstly, be honest with yourself and reflect on your personal goals. Try not to confuse personal goals with career, financial, or lifestyle goals. Personal goals should focus on who you aspire to be as a person, so don’t be afraid to dive deep into yourself. Although different, setting boundaries and holding oneself accountable is just as much an act of self love as taking time for yourself. The more understanding you have of yourself, the more you can grow, for we cannot care for a plant without the understanding of its need for water. 

It's important to have empathy for yourself. We’re only human and humans make mistakes. Being less critical of yourself from things you can't control can allow for growth because it helps utilize more of a capacity to learn from your mistakes rather than focusing on the mistakes themselves. With this being said, holding oneself accountable is, in fact, an act of self-love as you are taking responsibility for your words or actions—which shows self respect and shifts your perspective to a more emotionally intelligent mindset rather than an immature one. By holding yourself accountable, you also set boundaries with yourself and other people. 

Setting boundaries enables people to feel empowered anywhere from fulfilling personal goals to promoting healthy relationships as we learn our limits of what we are willing to be surrounded by. Setting boundaries is all about what you are comfortable with. A popular example is to limit phone usage or social media usage, especially if it's negatively affecting you. Set a boundary with yourself that will limit things that are creating negativity in your life. Boundaries vary like snowflakes, there are unique ones suitable for each person. 

Taking time for yourself can mean whatever you want. It could be time away from others or time spent in the presence of many. The main idea is that the time is for you and your enjoyment without distractions or stressors. OpenMended is a club at AUP that serves as an unofficial therapy group where students can talk about topics of their choice. The aim of the group is to have a safe space for students to support one another in talking about issues or things that could be weighing them down. The idea is that students are welcome to talk openly or write down issues resulting in everyone collectively tearing up their own notes at the end of the session. You might be wondering if you are obliged to share what you wrote, and the answer is that it's up to you—though most people prefer to keep their note private. You get to set the narrative for how much you want to share, if you decide to share at all. For some, observing is a more comfortable option: it can be very beneficial to just have a space to listen and feel supported. 


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2. Adjust your mindset 

Adjusting your mindset entails firstly understanding your thought process. Maybe you have a negative outlook on things that haven't happened or when you have a tough day it feels like the end of the world. Having a strong mindset can help deal with those inevitable days that frankly, just suck. Training your brain to shift your mindset is mental exercise, it takes time to strengthen our minds the same way we strengthen muscles. I've learned over time as my mindset and character was tested that some of the hardest experiences I've had have shaped me into the strong person I am now. 

Life is a balance and you have to experience the lows to appreciate the highs. It's important to remember to be patient with yourself. A simple view on changing your mindset can be to realize that things that have caused you pain, also taught you more than you might realize at first. It may have taught you resilience or compassion, or both! It's completely subjective, but a good measurement is how you respond to situations.

Shifting your mindset can take time as it is developed, not made. So creating realistic expectations for yourself will pave the way to further developments rather than feeling bad because you created (whether intentional or not) unrealistic expectations—for anyone, let alone yourself. Healing isn't linear, so feeling down because your mindset did not shift overnight or even over a week is completely normal.

AUP has a Wellness Room in the Grenelle building that AUP students can utilize to reflect and relax their minds. A relaxed mind has the ability to think more clearly and rationally. Adopt the mindset that embracing your emotions is okay and healthy. If it's one of those days where the world is bringing you down, try to reflect on what you learned from the day and focus on how that improves your overall self. If you feel like being expressive with your emotions, let them out! Sometimes it seems to be forgotten that the human experience also includes feeling. Today's societal standards are changing but there is still a narrative that expressing emotions and being vulnerable is weak, when it actually shows strength in someone's character. It is not necessarily a negative thing to feel emotions as there is no such thing as ‘bad’ emotions, just poor ways of handling them. Only focus on what you can control. 



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3. Celebrate the little things 

There's no doubt that some of our most joyful moments are that of achievements and milestones. However, it's important to recognize that the little things in life are worthy of celebrating and enjoying just as much as the big things. Sometimes, it's a small interaction with a stranger that uplifts you, so give it credit. Don't minimize things that bring you joy or fulfillment just because it's not a big event. Part of the reason why we as a society are so late to celebrate little things is because society instills a sense of conformity, especially about how one lives their life. Although society is ever changing, it's still not mainstream to celebrate and be happy about the little things in day to day life. Why is it that we can only exude happiness when there's a ‘big’ moment? It's become so normalized to be mindlessly attached to our phones when we could be appreciating the wind in our hair on the weekends. 

Take a break. Some of my best grades have been after I took time for myself. I did an activity that I wanted to do purely for my enjoyment and only worked in the times I scheduled. Prioritizing things you enjoy into your work schedule is a must to keep a healthy balance. One of my favorite quotes is from author Mark Black: “Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is rest”. That quote helps to reinforce self-love when I feel guilty I can feel about taking a break from work to make time for myself. 

Part of celebrating the little things is living in the present so you're able to recognize these things as they come rather than in hindsight. It's still possible to take time away from your workload and be mindless about everything, so it's important to recognize how significantly your mindset plays a part in your growth. The points discussed above are only guiding points, realizing that you have all the answers within yourself is what it's all about.