Your Social Self
Human beings thrive when they are connected to each other in safe, trusting, and reciprocating relationships, where each person takes a genuine interest in the health and wellbeing of the other. We are wired for in-person, face-to-face social connection. We talk. We listen. We share, encourage, create, and celebrate together.
This section of the website explores relationships (the social self) to emphasize its importance in your success. In fact, NC State students rank “making new friends” among their top 5 most important needs, according to the College Student Inventory (CSI), a survey administered as part of the First-Year Experience (FYEX) class that all students take in their first semester. Also, counselors at our free Student Assistance Program (SAP) note that relationship concerns and difficulties and social anxiety are among students’ biggest concerns—after stress, general anxiety (worry), test anxiety, and depression.
If you feel self-protective and on-guard a lot and need help understanding the role of trust in human relationships and how to recover or develop it, we can help. According to the Adult Learner 360 Student Survey (AL-360), NC State scores very high on the level of support that we provide to students, so take advantage of this. Develop relationships with success coaches, counselors, advisors, staff, faculty, and fellow students. Expand your personal and professional networks through study groups, student organizations, and work experiences in the community.
Life experiences occur in the context of human relationships. The questions we ask, answers we receive, evaluations and decisions we make, and actions we take usually occur in the context of relationships. The quality of your experiences at NC State will be influenced, in part, by the quality of the relationships you make and maintain with people here. Pursue supportive relationships with the following:
- Classmates and other fellow students
- Staff in administrative offices throughout campus
- Faculty of each class you take
- Personal Counselors in our free Student Assistance Program (SAP)
- Enrollment Advisor (Admissions Recruiter)
- Success Coach (for all first-year students)
- Financial Aid Staff
- Academic Liaison
- Faculty Advisor
- Academic Tutors
- Career Coordinator
- Disability Services Support Staff
You meet with a Success Coach after you apply for admission to NC State. We encourage you to develop a relationship with a Success Coach as soon as possible. In fact, it’s required of all students. Your Success Coach is located in the Student Success Center. He or she helps you develop a structure for your first experiences at NC State that will build your momentum of success. Your coach gets to know you as an individual and helps you develop an initial, flexible plan. Some activities include the following:
- Discuss your life experiences and academic and career goals
- Conduct a basic-needs review to identify any personal circumstances that may impact academic success (e.g., work and family obligations; financial issues; needs for assistance with food, clothing, housing, healthcare, transportation)
- Review veteran’s status, issues, and services
- Make referrals to on-campus supportive services and community-based services
- Help you choose a major and develop a two-term (two-semester) academic plan
- Track your progress during your first semester of college
After your first semester (or completion of designated courses), you will be assigned to another advisor, called an Academic Liaison. This person specializes in your academic major and is located in the building that houses your academic program’s offices and classrooms.
According to our campus counselors, students of all ages and from all walks of life are often skeptical about revealing their feelings, thoughts, perceptions, experiences, and life-circumstances. They often ask, “How does talking about my struggles accomplish anything? How does it help?”
There is so much power in connecting with others through honest face-to-face conversations. It enables you to hear yourself tell your story, speak your truth, sort your ideas, and connect the dots (your insights and ideas) to create solutions. Talking with someone you can trust is like a safety valve that releases pressure and stress and helps you find relief.
You are the expert of yourself, but if you listen carefully and with curiosity, other people might have some feedback and insight about best practices that will help you find what you seek.
Some college counselors say that if people were better friends to each other, there wouldn’t be as much need for counseling and therapy. They also say it’s the small things (gestures) that add up to make the world a beautiful place to live and thrive. Here are a few tips about sharing your time, attention, and truth with others. We mention them here, because we are rock-solid convinced about their ability to create a culture of caring:
- Be kind and courteous to others
- Be curious and ask questions
- Listen without judgement of yourself and others
- Engage in face-to-face conversations (not just text messages, emails, and social media posts) with others, especially family, friends, fellow students, faculty, and co-workers
- Feel and express peace, joy, gratitude, appreciation, and love
- Speak your truth honestly and respectfully
- Connect with people and places that feel safe and leave those that feel unsafe
- If you or someone you know is struggling or suffering, ask a new kind of question that encourages everyone to tell and honor personal stories.
- Old question: “What’s wrong with you/me?” (i.e., a focus on deficits that produces experiences of separation and feelings of shame and defensiveness)
- New question: “What happened to you/me?” (i.e., a focus on curiosity that produces experiences of connection and inclusion and feelings of respect and trust)
If, in the past, you have been betrayed, abused, or traumatized by a friend, family member, acquaintance, complete stranger, or person in a position of authority, you may feel guarded and hesitant about opening-up to other people in your college experience. You’re not wrong to be careful. Self-protection is important. Relearning trust in human relationships can be difficult and frightening. But you’re not alone.
The licensed counselors and social workers at NC State’s free on-campus Student Assistance Program (SAP) have many years of experience working with college students of all age groups* and from all walks of life. Give them a try. They can help you on your journey to self-care, self-discovery, and making new friends at NC State.
- They create a safe place to have confidential conversations.
- They listen without judgement.
- They believe each person is an expert about themselves.
- They also realize you may need help hearing and valuing your own insights and wisdom.
- They value story-telling and encourage you to share your truth about the here-and-now and the past.
* Editor’s Note: Middle school and high school students enrolled at NC State through the College Credit Plus (CCP) or College-NOW programs should contact their middle- or high-school counseling or health departments for mental health services.
Here’s a topic to explore with trusted friends and with campus counselors at NC State’s Student Assistance Program (SAP). The feeling of vulnerability is a strength, because it gives us an opportunity to pay attention to ourselves, to forgive ourselves, to love ourselves, and to connect with others. When you admit, own, and share your vulnerability and ask for help, it sets an example: it gives others permission to do the same. Vulnerability encourages and enables people to connect in an authentic way.
We are inspired by vulnerability because of researchers like Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection; Daring Greatly; Rising Strong; Braving the Wilderness; and Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership.
In her work, Brown shows a connection between the feeling of shame (feeling flawed and not good enough) and the isms, like alcoholism and workaholism, among others. For her research, Brown interviews people who struggle with shame and learns how they work with it and move beyond it. She has discovered that people who acknowledge feeling vulnerable and talk about it as part of their personal story tend to experience the courage to live a more authentic and whole-hearted life.
A good way to make new friends and to ease into new relationships at NC State is by joining or creating a study group or student organization. The groups increase your chances of meeting like-minded people who share similar interests and experiences. If you feel hesitant because you don’t feel safe making relationships with new people, talk to a campus counselor and ask if they can help you develop some strategies for increasing your comfort and level of trust (see “Explore Feelings of Trust” section above).
Students who attend NC State often report they don’t have extra time to join a study group or student organization, because they have challenging life circumstances and responsibilities—like work, family, parenting, caregiving, and military service. They might also have struggles with money, housing, transportation, childcare, and health and mental health conditions, among others. We understand, but we also encourage you to give it a try. Pick a day and time of the week that you do have a little time and ask others in the group if they might also be available or willing to meet then. Or maybe you can video conference (e.g., Zoom) into meetings. Again, talk to a campus counselor to explore other ideas for accommodating group activities that will benefit you.