College is a time for exploration and self-discovery. Hardly any of us will leave UF as the same person we were when we got here. Letting the experiences you have in college lead to change and growth is a normal and healthy thing to do during this time. What isn’t healthy or normal, however, is letting the people around you dictate how you change and how you grow.
Since UF is a big school, a lot of us took to joining close-knit organizations like greek life, service clubs or Student Government in order to make the campus feel a little bit smaller.
Before you knew it, your life probably began revolving around your organizations. When you weren’t at meetings or events, you were hanging out with your friends from your organizations, probably talking about recent and upcoming meetings or events. It slowly but surely became the crux of your life at UF.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s great that UF gives students so many opportunities to make the school feel smaller. Especially for those who come from a small high school or Stars Hollow-esque town. What’s not so great is when leaders in these organizations start to inflict their personal beliefs upon their members.
Often, clubs on campus believe they need to keep up a certain image. Student Government wants to appear as a unified front, even if the individuals involved don’t agree with every single platform. Sororities are focused on churning out the prettiest, trendiest and coolest girls on campus. Fraternities want to show the rest of campus that they have more fun than every other fraternity, and service clubs want their members to consistently act like saints or martyrs.
While it’s rather uncommon for the president of an organization to hand you a five page outline explaining how you should act, dress and think as a member of their club, they often find other ways to ensure that you meet their unspoken membership criteria.
It might be as simple as suggesting outfits you should or shouldn’t wear. It might be as direct as an organization leader telling you not to share certain things on Facebook. It might be as aloof as someone gently mentioning that maybe you shouldn’t hang out with the people you’re friends with.
These gentle nudges to change who you are probably seem harmless at first. These people are your friends, so they must have your best interest at heart, right? Well, as much as we wish that were true, it probably isn’t. Humans are inherently selfish and often do things more for personal gain than for someone else’s.
This being said, sometimes the guidelines organizations give you can be helpful and in your best interest. Some organizations will encourage you to limit how much alcohol you drink or to keep your GPA up. Others will advise you to keep your social media clean or get involved in a professional organization within your college. We realize that some of the pressures these organizations put on their members are good.
The problem arises when they start to tell you what to wear, what to post on social media, who to hang out with, who to date, what to eat and where to shop. This is when they start to change who you are.
Please, dear reader, remember your values and remember who you are. Growth is important and so is self-discovery. But when you notice yourself start to change, take a step back and ask yourself: Am I changing into a person I like? Or am I changing into a person my so-called friends want me to become?