Edit desk: College pushed me outside of my comfort zone

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Lucy Zhou

“Wait Lucy, you talk?” asked a guy I barely knew as he stared at me in shock.

It was in that moment during my freshman year of high school that I decided to make a change.

I was shy in high school. Before the “Lehigh look away” was even relevant to me, I kept to myself and chose not to engage in conversations with others. Part of me was afraid of being rejected, having people judge me or not accepting me. Another part of me was unsure of myself. I wasn’t willing to put myself out there or open up to others.

That random guy in high school made me realize that nobody understood me or my personality because I chose not to socialize often. Being selective with the people I talked to only limited me from growing and making more connections.

I was perfectly content with my one or two friends. However, I felt that I was missing a big part of life by not making the most out of all the possible relationships I could develop. I didn’t like that I was insecure and afraid to speak around unfamiliar people.

In my hometown, there was an unspoken rule that people couldn’t associate with others outside a group or “popularity standing.” It was juvenile, but it was strictly followed, especially as I got older. If everyone in my high school actually got to know one another, I would have made more friendships and become more sociable.

However, the culture surrounding my town and high school wasn’t as accepting, and I never really felt comfortable there.

College was an opportunity for me to start over with a clean slate. No one knew of my past, and everyone was in the same position of being in a new place and trying to make friends. The idea of cliques and popularity wasn’t as big of a stigma anymore.

I immediately noticed that Lehigh was more welcoming and diverse than what I was used to at home. I didn’t want to create a persona or be someone I wasn’t because now, I could show people my true personality that I had previously kept hidden.

I started college with a new mindset of trying different things and going outside my comfort zone. When I would’ve walked away or refused in the past, I now find myself thinking, why not? I go to events, make conversation with new people and give everything a chance.

The people I met and the friends I made while at Lehigh have all told me that I exude an outgoing and sociable personality. I’m always taken by surprise when I hear this because I used to be viewed, and saw myself, as a shy and introverted person. College forced me to change by throwing me headfirst into an environment where I either had to learn how to survive and thrive or get crushed.

I grew as a person and developed thick skin within my first year because it was so demanding. In a way, I formed close bonds by simply going through the sufferings and successes of college together. Surrounding myself with people who support and encourage me has made a huge difference in making me more open and extroverted.

Still, I continue to make sure that I always smile and am receptive to socializing as well as new experiences.

I am still quiet and like being alone sometimes, but I have also found that I enjoy being around people and playing an active role in social settings. Though I still only have a few close friends, the group of friends I interact with has grown in size. I’m happy that I decided to make a change and step out of my shell of insecurity and timidity.

As cliché as it may sound, the world is too big and too full of opportunities for me to just stand by quietly and limit myself to what others think of me.

Lucy Zhou, ’20, is an associate news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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