Is individuality celebrated on campus?

Photo courtesy: Simbol Blog

Fear holds us back from living the life we envision for ourselves. On campus, we encounter diverse aesthetics, fashion senses and unique personalities.

College is the space to overcome that fear and live in our true, authentic selves. University life is pivotal, offering numerous opportunities to dive into what one wants to be without the fear of perception. However, the fear of how others perceive us can be more crippling in college due to several factors, including social media and the pressure to fit in within a close-knit community. This fear can significantly inhibit students’ ability to express themselves and explore new areas of interest.

At Florida A&M University, while the rich campus culture celebrates diversity, some students, like Emmani Henry, a graduating public relations major, feel they don’t entirely fit into the dominant aesthetics and norms.

“In all honesty, FAMU didn’t help me with that. There’s definitely a culture here that I don’t fit into,” Henry said. “When I’m wearing outfits that are a little bit more experimental or alternative, etc., I sometimes do wonder if people are going to think I’m weird. I also remember one time a classmate of mine told me that I dress like I go to FSU, and we both know what she meant by that.”

This underlying issue feeds into a larger fear of perception among students, where there’s an unspoken pressure to adhere to a certain aesthetic to blend in on campus. The implicit expectation to conform not only stifles individual expression but also heightens the anxiety around how one is perceived by their peers. Such an environment can lead to a sense of alienation for those who feel their true selves don’t align with the prevailing campus culture, underscoring the need for a more inclusive atmosphere that celebrates diversity in all its forms.

According to Tranceform Psychology’s article, “The Fear of Being Seen & How To Overcome It,” fear emerges from the perception of a threat in our environment, which, in the context of campus culture, often translates to the anxiety of not fitting in. Despite the availability of diverse clubs and groups, there’s a prevailing pressure to conform to certain campus norms and aesthetics. This creates an environment where students may fear judgment or exclusion for being different, underscoring the importance of fostering a more inclusive campus culture that values individuality.

The pressure to conform can challenge individualism, yet embracing one’s uniqueness is empowering. Surrounded by a community of creative and versatile Black women, students find strength in their differences. Tiffany Herman, a public relations major, underscores this sentiment.

“Being unique makes you stand out; it should be celebrated and embraced,” Herman said.

Despite trends in fashion or hairstyles, it’s the distinct qualities each person possesses that truly enrich the campus culture, reminding us of the value in diversity and the importance of celebrating our unique backgrounds and perspectives. According to the article “Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the Twenty-First Century” by Glenn S. Johnson, Vance Gray, Lolita D. Gray, N. Latrice Richardson, Shirley A. Rainey-Brown, Kimberly L. Triplett and Luisa E. Bowman, HBCUs play a pivotal role in creating environments that challenge conformity and celebrate diversity, highlighting the importance of individualism within HBCU culture.

At Florida A&M University the diversity of its community brings a wealth of culture but also challenges in accepting individuality, particularly in expressions of style or hair that might not align with traditional expectations. Such differences can sometimes lead to a fear of judgment and a reluctance to be seen on campus. However, individuality is a treasure that should be embraced, not feared. Dressing in a way that reflects one’s true self is crucial for personal authenticity. It’s important to remember that everyone’s unique expression through their appearance is a celebration of their identity, not a subject for critique. Encouraging a culture of empathy and understanding ensures that individuality is not just tolerated but celebrated at FAMU, enhancing the vibrancy and inclusiveness of the campus community.