Trying to Impress People Will Not Make You Friends

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So many mythologize college as a time of reinvention and the best years of one’s life, so I took it upon myself to make that so. The pressure filled me with anxiety. Senior year proved such a high point for me, so I drove myself to recreate that magic by spending the first few weeks of freshman year trying to reinvent myself in order to establish a strong footing for the best years of my life.

Ultimately, I ended up not actually acting as myself in desperate attempts to impress my peers.

During orientation and my first few weeks of college, I put on a fabricated version of myself that I thought would interest others. It began with using a different voice than I normally speak with; I increased my native California vocal fry and deepened my voice to create a supposed alluring effect. I started using slang I never used before, particularly the word “sick,” just to sound cooler (which clearly did not work). In pursuit of seeming edgier, I heavily emphasized the fact that I totally love and exclusively listen to indie music, concealing the fact that I actually enjoy a variety of music, including some very cringey pop music, boy bands and wonderfully theatrical Disney songs. I began posting on social media with increased frequency, hoping that certain individuals would like my posts and give me validation that my attempts to dazzle the people I just met and barely knew had worked.

Most heinous of all, I originally wanted to spend more time with people I thought seemed “cooler,” rather than spend time with people who I actually felt more comfortable with. I tried to ignore people I didn’t think would advance my social status or make me look more desirable, sticking with those who I deemed more socially impressive, who boasted thousands of followers on Instagram and frequented the most exclusive social events. During orientation, I attended parties with these “cool girls” even though I knew I would feel uncomfortable and out of place. When school officially started, I chose to spend time with people I normally would never engage with; I spent time hanging out in one boy’s room, which likely made him uncomfortable, because I thought impressing boys and making them like me would bring me value.

I completely wasted my time doing this, though. Once I shed this facade, started speaking with my natural voice and vocabulary, and expressed my undying love for Disney music and One Direction, I started strengthening relationships I had previously tried to fray. The friends I made, such as the girls I ditched during orientation and the group of students that seemed to always spend time in the lounge, became some of my closest friends.

I’ve made incredible memories with these people, such as staying up until 6 a.m. in the lounge just talking about nonsense, engaging in weekly “Face Masks Fridays,” investing in comically tiny plastic hands on Amazon and using them everywhere we went, getting lost in Malibu and having to run across the Pacific Coast Highway to catch a bus that only took us the wrong direction, making incredibly specific memes with funny photos we took of each other and adopting guinea pigs for our dorm room only to find out one of them was pregnant. I don’t even talk to the people I originally valued and attempted to befriend.

Into my third year, I continue to make wonderful memories with this group of people. I share an apartment with two of them, and invite the rest over for gluttonous brunches and marathons of The Office. We even plan to travel to Singapore and Malaysia together this coming winter break. This beautiful connection with a diverse, unique set of individuals has transformed my college experience into something I would not trade for the world. All this because I shed my facade and embraced my authentic self.

Samantha Spotswood is a third year double majoring in English and History at UCLA. She is an avid weight lifter, runner, and a vegan foodie. When she is not drinking one of her 5 cups of tea per day, she is exploring LA with her friends.

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