Attending a college as rigorous as Hopkins requires an extensive amount of time spent going to classes, completing assignments and studying for a never-ending stream of midterms. Because our days are filled with unceasing schoolwork, it can feel as though there is no time to do anything else.
In the absence of doing things purely for fun, college life can feel overwhelming and unbearable. Balancing your academic obligations with your passions can be difficult to learn and may require intentional decisions about your time.
Laura has attempted to combat this sense of self-imposed isolation by adopting new hobbies that actively make her happy, such as crocheting her anxieties away. Diksha, on the other hand, enjoys fulfilling her Pitch Perfect dreams as the newly inaugurated president of the Mental Notes.
Sometimes, though, it can feel easier to languish in a prison of academics. Often, our attempts at doing the things that make us happy are complicated by the weight of others’ opinions.
In a novel environment surrounded by thousands of her peers, the fear of judgment has often limited Laura’s actions and the way she presents herself. The transition from high school to college proved challenging to Laura because she discovered an increase in her anxiety about how others perceive her.
Recently, in an attempt to challenge this unease and push herself out of her comfort zone, Laura started going to yoga classes by herself, which may seem to many like a small achievement but was a nerve-wracking initial step for her. In doing so, Laura discovered the value of prioritizing her happiness.
Forcing herself to reckon with her fears allowed for the realization that many of her anxieties stem from false narratives created in her mind. Although there is always the possibility of judgment, in reality, no one is preoccupied with your presence in the way that you might assume them to be. For many people, that statement may be apparent, but Laura is in the process of accepting that fact.
Though Diksha wishes she were the president of the United States, she’ll have to settle for being the president of her a capella group. Before Diksha was able to congratulate herself for achieving this gratifying and exciting position, she realized she felt a similar fear to Laura: the fear that people would perceive her as a bad leader.
So, she tried to overcompensate for her “failings” as a leader. She struggled with comparing herself to the previous president, who did an amazing job keeping the group together and taught Diksha most of what she knows about president-ing.
The president, whose actions define the direction of the group, has an immense amount of responsibility, which can feel overwhelming at times. Diksha would often find herself questioning, “What would my predecessor do?” Although this line of thinking definitely helped her with administrative issues, it could sometimes be less of a teaching moment and more of a harsh comparison.
For example, in difficult situations — such as handling a tricky mesh of personalities during practice — she would be the first to criticize herself for not emulating the stability of the previous president. This was excessively discouraging because she would not have known how to operate in an unfamiliar situation unless she was learning from previous mistakes. Diksha found that her fear of being perceived as a bad leader and placing pressure on herself to emulate her predecessor forced her to continually feel inadequate. Rather than lead in a way that made her feel secure and happy, she actively punished herself for not achieving an unattainable ideal.
Instead of leading exactly like her predecessor, Diksha soon realized that she should lead in a way that embodied her quirks and preferences. If she continually perceived her group to be upset with her presence and role, she would never be able to assert herself, inhibiting herself from being a strong, dependable leader.
Rationally, Diksha knows that she has the skill set to support her group, and she needs to actively choose to remember that so she can enjoy leading the Mental Notes rather than participate in her usual self-flagellation.
In this edition of our column, we want to show our readers (yes, we have readers!) how the fear of other people’s perceptions can limit us from actively choosing to be happy.
Laura went beyond her fears to participate in hobbies that she felt augmented her life and allowed her to create joy in activities outside of academics. She feels less of a need to rely on others to be happy and is trying to find that happiness within herself rather than wait for others to experience it with her.
Diksha felt limited in her abilities as a leader when she tried to stay within the boundaries handed down to her by her predecessor. Fearful of the judgment that change could bring and desiring stability, she stayed within those boundaries. That fear prevented her from stepping fully into her leadership abilities and promoting the change within the group that she wished to see.
Our goal for this semester is simple: don’t let the possible perceptions of others limit your active choice to be happy.
Laura Salem is a sophomore from Tolland, Conn. studying Psychology and History. Diksha Iyer is a sophomore from Dearborn, Mich. studying Public Health and Economics. Through their differing perspectives, Laura and Diksha stumble their way through their college experience one step at a time.