As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our struggles in the constant quest to appear perfect. Embracing our truths can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations of being one’s authentic self at BC.
Masrur Khan, A&S '14
I came into college feeling completely confident in who I was. I graduated high school with remarkable grades and going to a competitive college, winning the superlative “everybody’s best friend,” and feeling great about my relationship with my then-girlfriend. I wasn’t nervous about coming to college, as I felt that I knew who I was already, and nothing was going to change that.
Within the first few hours of my time here at Boston College, I realized just how wrong I was about this all. I instantly found myself trying to fit in and make people like me—they didn’t know who I was in high school. I was comfortable with the person I had left my hometown as, but how could I find that again here at BC with a sea of new faces who know nothing about my personality or my accomplishments?
I quickly found myself trying to conform to a new set of ideals and qualities that I felt were appropriate for BC students. There is a very typical stereotype of a BC male student—preppy, athletic, attractive, and intelligent. I was fairly confident in my intelligence level and my friendliness, but I came to realize that in this new community I wasn’t particularly confident in any of my other qualities. The relatively homogenous community at BC was filled with tall, athletic, muscular males—none of which describe a scrawny, nerdy guy like myself.
I tried to change the way I dressed. I tried to research everything there was to know about any and all sports, so that there would never be a lull in conversation with me. However, I felt incredibly self-conscious thinking about the fact that I was not very good at playing sports, and I didn’t go to the gym four times a day so I wasn’t as ripped as every guy around me.
This even led me to question my relationship with my girlfriend at the time and the relationship that followed. I feared that she wasn’t actually attracted to me; I thought that she was only with me for my other qualities, and physical attraction was just a façade. While this was not the primary reason, in the end we broke up and I held onto this insecurity.
I felt that I needed to hook up with as many girls as possible to fit in, and I began to try and do so. For quite some time, I met a different girl every weekend, and I thought this would bring me the confidence I needed amongst my new friends. But despite my record, I never truly felt like I was attractive, and my body image was a big part of it.
After putting myself through several miserable months of trying to work out incredibly hard, I began to look at myself in the mirror and hate the person that I had become. I never used to be concerned with what clothes I was wearing. I never used to be concerned with whether or not I could play in a pick-up game of basketball. I never used to be concerned with how big my arms were and what girls thought of them.
This led me to make the decision to be real with myself as well as the people around me. I realized more and more that majority of the insecurities I had about what I looked like were in my head. I realized that my friends appreciated me for who I was—it was what was on the inside that mattered. I came clean about the fact that I didn’t care for dressing well or wearing polos and boat shoes all the time. I told my friends that I was not really athletic and I was comfortable with it, and that I would rather hang out with them in our dorm and just talk than try and force myself to be someone I was not.
I feared that I would lose most of my friends because our shared interests of playing sports together, wearing nice clothes and trying to get girls were gone. However, what I found afterwards was truly beautiful and reassuring. I found that my friends appreciated me for the person that I was, and after being completely honest and open, many of them came clean about some of their insecurities too. Furthermore, being genuine seemed to have a force of its own—people seemed to gravitate towards me, and I found myself making friends easier than ever before. This led me down a path towards developing and maintaining authentic relationships with my friends, one that I have since never turned away from.
However, I can’t say that my insecurities of my physical appearance and body image went away as easily. For most of my college experience, that was something that stayed with me, and even to this day is something I struggle with from time to time. But the hook up culture never helped that. I could have hooked up with a different girl every night of the week and still never felt fulfilled in any way.
I finally met an incredible woman who makes me feel like I’m the only man on this campus worth looking at. She makes me feel attractive and sexy, something I was never used to before. There was never anything beyond any hook-up I have ever had, but she reminds me each and every day that I should love every aspect of who I am—all of the physical aspects as well as what is within. This is perhaps one of the most authentic relationships I could ever have, and she reminds me every day that I am who I am.
Maybe I was looking for a girl that could finally fill me with the confidence that I wanted all along. But in the end, what I know is that I wouldn’t be able to find a fulfilling love until I had to learn to love myself for everything that I am. Every piece of me, the good and the bad, is worth loving. I may have found someone to love these qualities, but more importantly I’ve learned to love them myself.