Navigating Insecurities in College

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Molly Medin
A person’s hand holding up a white piece of paper with the words: “Navigating Insecurities in College + Why They’re Not a Bad Thing”.

Insecurity doesn't have to be something you shrug off with mantras like “You are perfect just the way you are!” or “Comparison is the root of all evil.” Instead, allow moments and feelings of insecurity to teach you about yourself, and achieve goals that will improve your life and make you happier.

In college, we tend to compare ourselves to others often. We meet so many new people and are pulling from new experiences and new interests, while trying to figure out how we want our lives to look and living in all new environments. It is completely normal to second guess our own appearances, personalities, interests, and habits in this stage of self-discovery and growing up. As a student in my third year of undergrad who has had more than my fair share of these moments, I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned.

What Causes Insecurity?

Understanding the root of your insecurity is key to 1) using the insecurity to teach you about yourself and 2) not blaming yourself for having it in the first place. If you are insecure because you don’t have something that you’re passionate about, like a career that would improve your life, college is the time to pursue it. If you are ashamed that you don’t have something that doesn’t align with your values, like having 3,000 Instagram followers, seeing this clearly can help you let go of the insecurity.

Let’s go through an example.

Say I’m walking down the street and see a woman wearing a matching blazer and pants set from a popular brand, and I am immediately insecure about what I am wearing and where my clothes are from. Firstly, I tell myself that this is not a negative feeling, but an opportunity to learn about myself further.

What is it about that woman wearing the outfit that makes me insecure? Do I wish I had her outfit because I assume it means she is having a productive workday or because I know it’s expensive? There could be a million reasons… but I’d start by asking myself, “If I had this outfit, what do I think would change?”

For me personally, I know that being productive makes me happy and helps me be confident, which is aligned with my values. If I figure out that I am jealous of this woman’s outfit because of her perceived productivity, I can take from this encounter that I feel as if I’m an unproductive person. If I’m honest with myself and I know I am usually very productive and am consistent with work projects and studying, I can remind myself of all my past accomplishments and routines I’ve worked so hard to make and keep. Or, if I know I’ve been procrastinating and not reaching my potential, I can use this experience as a signal that procrastinating is actively making me unhappy.

If I identify that I’m jealous that her outfit is expensive and I wish I had lots of extra money to spend on fancy outfits, then I can further investigate that. Does showing off make me happy? Why do I feel the need for other people to know I have lots of money? If I feel this way because I want to be like other people who have more money than me, then I can ask myself if wanting to be like other people is something I want and value. For me, that is an easy no and it would be much easier for me to let go of that insecurity, knowing that I do not want to do anything to be like other people, therefore, buying that outfit wouldn’t make me happy.

So, What Does This All Mean?

At the end of these possible ways to think about this situation, the answer is not buying the fancy outfit. I am not criticizing the solution of seeing the woman’s outfit, feeling bad about yourself, and then buying her outfit, because it is a solution, just not one that teaches you something about yourself. This rational method of dissecting insecure feelings has been life changing for me and has allowed me to overcome so many self-doubting thoughts.

College is a chaotic but extremely flexible time in your life, as you are deciding what career you want to pursue, what sleep schedule works best for you, how to navigate relationships, what foods will make you feel the best, how to balance having a social life, and more. The fact that you don’t have your life planned out or know how it’s going to unfold is scary and means big decisions ahead, but it also means that the possibilities are literally endless. It’s time to figure out what will make you happy so you can do that.

I’m going to leave you with a list of values to ponder, and a few quotes that have helped me so much in my college experience so far.

List of values


“The uncomfortableness comes from the space between knowing what you need to do and doing it.”

“What would you regret more: doing or not doing?”

“Time will pass anyways.”

“I am grateful for challenge because it gives me the ability to improve. If I was stuck, no matter where I was, I wouldn’t be happy.”

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