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“Shyness is nice and shyness can stop you / From doing all the things in life you'd like to.”

- The Smiths, "Ask" (1986)

You're pretty clever, did you know?

If you're a student here at York (or even a member of staff), then congratulations! You've met our entry requirements fair and square. You're here on your own merits. Go you! We all get a bit of impostor syndrome now and again, but please believe us when we tell you that you're good enough to be here. Because you are.

But it's all well and good us typing that. Brains aren't logical; we're not robots. We're humans with all our hang-ups and worries. Still, it doesn't hurt to repeat it: you're smart enough to be studying/working at one of the world's best unis. Clever clever you!

Not that this page is all about stroking your ego. But we thought we should start with that simple, basic truth.

It's alright to be wrong

Nobody likes being wrong. And yet we all have to get things wrong sometimes — it's how we learn: we learn from our mistrakes. And we learn by doing, so we can't just not do things because we're scared that we'll get them wrong — life doesn't let us. There's some big things ahead for all of us, and so it's better to get some practice in in terms of confronting the world head-on.

Take me – the person writing this right now – I hate getting things wrong; I hate unfamiliar experiences. I lack confidence when faced with something new. And that's not ideal. Perhaps part of my problem is that I don't lack confidence in some other aspects of my life, but that just highlights that it's not good enough to just do what you're good at. You need to take risks. And all risk comes with a chance of, well, failure.

But, when we fail at something, that's a chance to learn from that failure. So it's better to fail small and often, and to learn from those small failures, than to keep putting things off and let things snowball into the possibility of a big failure. It's better to get the little things wrong because that helps us get the big things right.

So go on: give it a go! What's the worst that can happen?

No, seriously: what is the worst that can happen? Think about things critically and contextually. Ask questions. Because that's the other side of all this: you're allowed to ask questions — indeed, at university it's practically encouraged! If you're not sure about anything, ask someone. The ability to ask a question is the most powerful tool there is. Honestly. Try it if you don't believe us!

Opening strange doors

University is all about discovery: intellectual discovery, self discovery, all kinds of discovery. And that process of discovery requires you to do some exploration. If it's a piece of research, that process of exploration is hopefully fairly obvious: you've got to experiment, or search the literature, or conduct interviews and surveys. But that process of discovery extends more broadly.

Take campus, for instance. The University of York is a campus university. And that campus is there for you to explore. It's designed on the assumption that anyone can go pretty much anywhere (and if they can't for whatever reason then the door will be locked, or marked "FIRE DOOR: DO NOT OPEN" or something!) — so if you're able, go and explore it. Visit unfamiliar buildings, try strange doors and see where they lead. Entertain your curiosity!

The same goes for your personal life. If you're not able to try something new while at university, when are you ever going to do it? For instance, if you're a student there's a host of societies and activities to get involved with. Why not give something a go? Don't worry if you've never done something before — we all have to start somewhere. Sometimes it's about the fun of it, rather than being good at it. But whatever you try, with practice comes confidence: the more you do something, the less daunting it will hopefully be!

Curiosity is a really useful life skill. Asking questions of the world is important — after all, you don't know what you don't know. We need to critically think about pretty much everything we're told. We need to question everything. And the best way to start is by exposing ourselves to new experiences and different ways of seeing the world.

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