Dos and don’ts from the Emerald Isle

Kelly Byer

Since becoming a student at the University of Ulster, I have been given a range of booklets and pamphlets designed to help students adjust to the university and campus life.

You know the kind, those informational packets on library, safety and residence services that are rarely read and usually just thrown onto a desk somewhere to lay forgotten until someone eventually decides to throw them out.

One day, for lack of better reading material, I found myself perusing the pages of “Residential Essentials,” a guide on university accommodation. I came across some interesting advice. On the fourth page, there was a “Dos and Don’ts” list that stated the usual: Do establish a system of studying and revise regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask for information or leave everything to the last minute.

But the list also provided more intriguing pieces of advice like, “Do have a sense of humour – smile” and “Don’t compare yourself constantly with others.”

Even though I’m in a European country and do not physically stand out from the crowd, my dress, demeanor and, mainly, my accent mark me as American.

And that piece of advice seemed particularly relevant, as I’ve found not comparing myself to other students a challenge. But those sentiments are ones anyone can relate to, wherever they may be.

People do compare themselves with others often, if not constantly. If they didn’t, there would be no trends or the desire to fit in.

Women look at other women’s clothes, accessories, hair, makeup and a myriad of other things, holding themselves up in comparison. I’m sure men compare themselves with each other, too. Although I can’t say for sure what they compare – maybe muscles?

A girl wearing short shorts, dark clothing and generally an outfit out of the ordinary, received stares from another group of girls as she walked along a campus sidewalk here.

Unfortunately, the reality is people do look at others and judge them based on appearance, but that’s no reason to let their views influence your own.

While wearing a trendy dress with tights and having my makeup done by my Irish roommates changed my style, it didn’t change my personality. The reason a makeover or new clothes makes someone feel improved is because it boosts a person’s self-esteem, if only for a little while.

If people have confidence in themselves, feeling comfortable in their own skin, they can pull off any outfit or style with ease because it convinces others of that very self-confidence.

But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a person’s own eye usually beholds the harshest view. So, while saying you won’t compare yourself to others is easy, actually putting those words into action takes work. That’s where having a sense of humor and the ability to smile at your faults would come in handy.

So, go easy on yourself. Shrug off the negative comments and voices in your head, internalizing the good. It takes time to take away the crutches of constantly checking yourself in a mirror, remarking on how unphotogenic you are or asking others if they’re sure you look good.

But when you’re ready to enjoy your life without worrying about what the next person’s doing with theirs, you will.

Kelly Byer is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].