Being your authentic self

Donnaly Y Atajar graduated from UCLA in 2012 with a B.A. in Sociology and minor in Political Science. She is an art university recruiter and middle school/high school tutor. She loves all things art and culture and makes travel a priority. In her free time, she directs a mentorship program, connecting high school students with college mentors and organizing workshops centered around self-awareness, ethnic studies, leadership development, and college preparation. You can find her blogging about this thing called “life” at and tweet her @donnalyy.

Who am I? What is my purpose? What should I do with my life? Such daunting life questions may never be fully answered, but college is a great time to start. Amidst the hustle and bustle of college classes, extra-curricular activities, and internships, it’s easy to overlook your personal development. You deserve to be the best version of yourself, especially because you have made the commitment to pursue higher education.
As a student leader, my roles primarily consisted of personal, professional, and leadership development. In other words, I helped other students and leaders find the lesson and value in everything they did. The most motivated, productive students were those who were true to their passions and realized their strengths. These same students also consciously addressed their weaknesses and took ownership of their vulnerabilities. Think about your fellow classmates. I bet there is one who makes you think, “That person has got it going on!” It is those students who put a premium on self-awareness. It is those students who are well on their way to becoming their authentic selves, ready to take on the world.
So how can you get in on this secret society? For starters, make personal development a priority. There are a few simple things you can do to shape your journey. Share these ideas with friends to hold each other accountable and have support in achieving your goals.
• Create a Plan of Action. Outline your goals and develop a vision of yourself with a time frame. You can make a Plan of Action every semester or for the school year. Fill in categories such as Personal, Professional, Academic/Intellectual, Health/Wellness, and Financial. Start by adding your classes, extra-curricular activities, and jobs or internships. You will find that the rest becomes easy to fill in once you outline your existing commitments. Use this Plan of Action as a tangible guide in reaching your goals. Set aside a few minutes each week to reassess your goals or readjust your timeline. Don’t be afraid to dream big!
• Start an Interest Log. Take note of things that pique your curiosity when you’re watching TV or browsing social media. During your study breaks and free time, go back to this log and Google some of the things that sparked your interest. This is a great way to expand your perspectives and maybe even discover a new talent.
• Use your time wisely and mindfully. This does not necessarily mean constantly studying or working 40 hours a week. Be present in the moment and recognize the value of your time. In college, you have this superhuman power of staying up late. You probably have an unprecedented amount of freedom. Revel in the sights and sounds of your college town. Feel the connections forming with lifelong friends. Make the most of your experiences whether you are playing Ultimate Frisbee, doing community service, or finding the cure for a terminal illness. Let every experience shape you and see the lessons in all that you do.
In our ever-connected world, take time to be with yourself. Reflect on your experiences and values. Use your past and your dreams to become who you are meant to be. Living authentically will not only help you reach your goals, but boost your happiness. Take ownership of your place in this world and become who you are meant to be.

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