Fresher pressure, self-acceptance, and confidence: Vera Venue

This month, Dixie and Bailey are dealing with new-student nerves and the anxiety of not being accepted

ABOVE: Priscilla Du Preez

This article was originally written for and published by Concrete Newspaper, as part of arts and culture magazine Venue.

To submit your own question to Venue’s agony aunt section, use the Vera Venue Submission form (it’s totally anonymous!)

What advice do you have for someone starting uni with a really shy personality? I’ve always been quiet but now I don’t want that to hold me back when I’m trying to make new friends and become a new person. I just get so worried that people will think the things I say are stupid or weird. How do I get past that? Thanks! DIXIE, 19

Hi Dixie! 

Starting Uni is a brilliant time to be reflecting on your own confidence, because 99% of people are in the exact same boat. When I started my first year, everyone was absolutely bricking it, because we all harboured the same anxieties. Will I fit in? Are my clothes cool enough? Will people want to be my friend? As much as your fellow first-years may cover it up or play it cool, I can guarantee you that almost all of them are just as nervous as you are.

On that note, my next piece of advice is one that sometimes gets misunderstood. It may sound harsh at first, but most of the people you interact with on a daily basis aren’t as interested in you as you think they are. Because you spend every hour of every day with yourself, you’re hyper aware of yourself. All of your ‘embarrassing’ moments, all of the traits you think are annoying, all of the neuroses and insecurities you might have – they’re all extremely familiar to you. It’s human nature to expect everyone else to be as aware of these things as you are. 

I spent all of first year trying so hard to fit in, and whenever I slipped up, I felt like the whole world was laughing at me behind my back. Everything – every outfit, every conversation, every party – was so high stakes, because in my mind, all of these people were looking at me and studying me and judging me. In reality, everyone else was so preoccupied with their own anxieties that they hardly even noticed when I did something stupid. And if they did notice, they found it funny, and it became a way for us to become closer friends.

It’s part of our wiring to assume that the world revolves around us, but at the end of the day, it is just a self-centred anxiety. All of the energy you put into worrying about other people’s perceptions could be put into one of your hobbies, or working on your confidence, or speaking to someone new. You don’t need to worry so much about what everyone thinks of you, because the truth is, they don’t think of you nearly as much as you do – and most of them are far too busy worrying about what you think of them.

My mental health is really struggling right now. I thought it would get better when I moved out for uni. My family don’t accept me for who I am or who I love and I thought being away from it all would be so much easier but in a way it’s almost like I’m missing it? I feel so lonely and I miss all the noise albeit from shouting and arguments. I know I need help and I want to get help but I have no idea where to start. I’m scared that even the person I ask for help won’t accept me as that’s basically been drilled into me since such a young age. BAILEY, 19

Hello Bailey – thank you for writing such a genuine and vulnerable message. Starting uni is hard for everyone for a variety of specific reasons, and it sounds like you have a lot on your plate. 

You’re facing a huge challenge in moving away from home and leaving your comfort zone behind. Even when our home environment is filled with conflict and makes us feel unwelcome, for a lot of us, it is still home, and what we’re accustomed to. You’re not alone in having confusing feelings about missing it all. I think one of the biggest processes of going to Uni is realising which things you love about home, and which things you don’t want to take with you into your own space. It is your chance to re-evaluate the things you took for granted and had no control over, and it can be just as exciting and freeing as it is intimidating.

Though you miss the noise, I’d encourage you to take some time to embrace the new quiet you’ve found at University. Uni can be a noisy place in itself, and this could be a chance for you to take time – proper time – to be alone. Like you say, loneliness is a big factor of your distress at the moment, but this is probably made more negative because you’re not used to being alone. Once you’re comfortable with it, being alone is great. You can do what you want, go where you want, and wear what you want, without having to worry about anyone else’s needs or anxieties. Try to actively spend time with yourself, doing things you enjoy. Take yourself on a date to the Sainsbury Centre, or go for a wander through town. You might find that being alone and loneliness are not the same thing. 

In terms of where to start with getting help, the best thing you can do is keep an open mind and try a few different things. It might seem terrifying to open yourself up, especially as you’ve come to expect nothing but rejection, but it’s the only way you’ll be able to prove to yourself that you will be accepted. Your parents’ attitudes towards you are not representative of everyone’s attitudes towards you.

One avenue I would highly recommend you explore is UEA’s LGBTQ+ Society, Pride. Membership is totally free, and they run a number of different social activities (including sober ones)! Pride would be a great place for you to not only meet people at Uni with similar interests and passions, but also meet other queer people who will understand your journey all the better. You can also make use of UEA’s Support network, which can be found via the website. Student Minds is also a fantastic resource, with loads of support options that you can explore at

While it might currently feel like you’re lost between home and Uni, I promise you that you’ll settle in and find your place soon. These periods of transition, while scary at the time, are usually the life phases in which we learn and grow the most – try and use this as an opportunity to nurture the best version of yourself.

Maja Anushka is this year’s Vera, Concrete’s Features Editor, and on the MA Broadcast and Digital Journalism course. As well as being almost as nosy as she is empathetic, Maja has almost a decade’s experience of making YouTube videos which have covered topics such as mental illness, LGBTQ+ issues, grief, relationships, body dysmorphia, and self-esteem. Her goal for Vera Venue is to promote self-love, mental wellbeing, and healthy relationships, and create a space where people can see that they are not alone.

This article was originally written for and published by Concrete Newspaper, as part of arts and culture magazine Venue.

To submit your own question to Venue’s agony aunt section, use the Vera Venue Submission form (it’s totally anonymous!)

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