By: Kelsey Aylor, co-editor-in-chief
During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I wrote an editorial piece discussing the “Wofford Way,” which I defined as the competitive and perfectionist mentality that is assumed as standard for Wofford students. I discussed the intensive workload, the constant need and desire to overachieve – to have the best GPA, hold leadership positions in multiple organizations, play a sport, have a career-furthering internship, etc. – and the constant feelings of failure found in trying to reach these ever-increasing measures of success.
Ultimately, I concluded that Wofford students as a whole needed to focus more on the individual for the sake of the individual, rather than within the context of the community. Although the community is important, individualization is the key to finding legitimate happiness and fulfillment, rather than being concerned about how everyone else around you is doing.
Now, two years later as a senior with more experience and (hopefully) more wisdom, I want to revisit the idea of “The Wofford Way” and give an update of sorts.
Not to toot my own horn, but I think the advice I proposed before was pretty good. For me, putting myself first was the first step in becoming a better and happier version of myself.
That being said, it was a tough first step. I went back and forth between still seeking the approval and admiration of my peers, friends, professors and family members and being content with my endeavors, simply because it was in line with what I wanted. And that’s to be expected honestly – who doesn’t like the praise of others? The affirmation that your hard work is valued and doesn’t go unnoticed?
It’s hard to separate yourself from a constant need and crave for that affirmation. However, I think it’s about learning to appreciate others’ appreciation without letting it become a constant search. You are the sole definer of your identity – not the professor in the class you’re struggling to pass in, not the president of your Greek organization and not your employer. The list could go on and on, proof in how much we overvalue the opinion of others’ rather than our own.
I want to again quote John Steinbeck, who wrote, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” The search for perfection is an automatic set-up for failure – someone will always be smarter, more involved, more well-known, more popular than you. Besides, those models of perfection themselves will have their own issues and shortcomings. To be perfect is to be imaginary.
Instead, be good. Do good and feel good about yourself. Be passionate, be involved and be adventurous. By no means should you sell yourself short, but set yourself up for success by looking internally, rather than externally.
While I still think my sophomore-era definition of “The Wofford Way” holds some validity (especially since the sophomore slump is a very real thing), I think this concept encompasses so much more. “The Wofford Way,” while it has this struggle, is ultimately about growth, about coming to love yourself and believe in your capabilities. It is about finding your passions and priorities. Above all (and excuse the cliché), it is about being the best version of yourself for yourself.