When girls leave for college in the next few weeks, I’d like to suggest two critical items to not pack to ensure a successful transition. Of course, there are many things to bring in order to create their own unique space. But the items I’m referring to are much deeper and more meaningful: their level of comfort and any old limiting beliefs.
An eighteen-year-old girl recently told me she wants to be “uncomfortable” her first semester of college, and I wholeheartedly agreed. I always encourage girls to get out of their comfort zones and reinvent themselves when they leave the nest for college. It’s great to pursue new interests, especially ones they’ve had the urge to try in the past but didn’t have the time for. It’s also fun to befriend all different kinds of people and to stray away from just having friends who are clones of high school chums. I admire girls who purposefully choose colleges, dorms, roommates, and sororities different than their high school group. It is refreshing to go someplace new where you have no reputation and start anew. So, first and foremost, get uncomfortable.
Item two on my not-to-pack list is old limiting beliefs. By the time they are 18, every girl has picked up negative thoughts about herself due to adverse life experiences. For example, a parent doesn’t spend time with you after a divorce, a good friend ditches you, you struggle to get good grades because of learning issues, or you get excluded from your group. Girls go inside their heads to try to make sense of such experiences, and often their private logic produces unhealthy and untrue thoughts. Girls may decide that they aren’t good enough, cool enough, they’re weird or annoying, they’re not important or loveable or deserving of good friends or love, or that they can’t trust anyone. These beliefs will travel with them to college unless girls spend time making better sense of what they’ve gone through. They aren’t always in control of what happens to them, but they are definitely in charge of what they allow it to mean about them. Girls will look, behave, and interact according to what they believe about themselves, for better or for worse. They need some quiet time for reflection, journaling, or even some short-term counseling to reframe life experiences.
Besides focusing on items like clothing and furniture and computers to bring to college, make sure your daughters also spend some time unpacking any limiting beliefs about themselves. Encourage them to leave their comfort zone behind so that they can bust out and make the most of their new-found freedom and independence.