“I know exactly what matters to me.”
“The book that changed my life? I know exactly which one that is.”
“I haven’t accomplished anything. WHAT HAVE I ACCOMPLISHED THAT’S WORTH MENTIONING?”
“I don’t know who I am.”
These are the thoughts that enter your mind when you’re applying to college. You get the question, “what matters to you” and you immediately think you know because in any other situation you’d have a monologue prepared, cataloging everything you’ve ever cared about and how it’s shaped you as a person. But then, you sit down to write the answer – and nothing comes to you. You move on to the next question.
Your favorite book is obviously the book that changed your life. But, you can’t remember what your favorite book is. You begin to assume you don’t have one; you go to extremes and start to think that you’ve never read a book before–especially not one you’ve enjoyed. Has your entire life been a lie? You don’t know. You thought you liked the book you had to read in English last week, but maybe you didn’t. Perhaps you haven’t read a book you loved before. Again, moving on to the next question.
“Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?” Accomplishments…your mind begins to race. You don’t have a single achievement, let alone multiple from which to choose; but you do. People always tell you how proud of you they are, and you get recognized for your hard work up until now, but you can’t seem to remember anything that you’ve done worthy of praise in the past week, let alone in the past four years. Did you really accomplish anything in your high school career? You’re not entirely sure.
Before you began this process, you thought you had a pretty good grasp on who you were as a person. You thought you could say with the utmost confidence, “I know who I am,” but now, you’re not so sure. Yes, you’re the same person you were before you began applying to college. However, you’ve concluded that you’re much less self-aware. But, that’s where you’re wrong. These questions provoke you into telling yourself lies, propelling you into a whirlwind of self-doubt and self-deprecation. You start to believe that you don’t have anything that matters to you or whatever it isn’t important enough; your favorite book isn’t meaningful enough or scholarly enough; your accomplishments aren’t something to be proud of. You begin to compare yourself to thousands of other teenagers who are in the same boat – they don’t think they know who they are. They don’t think that they’re worthy. They don’t think that what they value is worth valuing anymore because it doesn’t match what they think colleges are looking for.
Whatever you love, whatever you’re proud of, whatever you think is essential, is enough. In the midst of those little white lies, remember this truth, “I know who I am.”