I am a 25-year-old writer, married, working a full-time job out of my home. In my free time, I like to read, cook and travel. I someday aspire to publish a novel or maybe make a documentary. However, almost about 99 percent of the time, I feel like a total failure. I always think I am lacking something, probably some skills and definitely self-confidence. Most days I fear I’m running out of time to make it on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. I know, that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But the anxiety to make it in life sooner than the universe has manifested gets me all the time.
I never had any five-year plans, a checklist to succeed young. However, when the pandemic hit and I had to return home from my fast-paced life, I started examining my career choices, finances, and my health. Conversations with my friends changed, took a different route and the confinement of four walls started amplifying our anxieties. A bunch of my school friends were moving abroad for further studies, a few were hitting the aisle, and some were taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. I, on the other hand, was consumed with afterthoughts and looking for some sort of validation to state that I was on the right track with the right pace.
Pressure to succeed young: Is it self inflicted?
I began therapy during the pandemic and it thankfully helped me with my anxiety. Through it, I learned to respect my process, pace and trust that everyone has their own timing. A common mistake I made, and one which I feel many others also get trapped in, is putting a deadline on success. We are conditioned from a young age to expect that certain milestones need to be achieved at a certain age.
We create career expectations, relationship goals and plans, all pressuring us to succeed within constrained periods of time. Hence, if I can’t achieve these goals at the same rate as my peers, it must mean I am failing. While I do believe that planning and having attainable goals is good practice, I feel our understanding and assessment of our personal success shouldn’t be linked. Success takes time and even the excruciating details of patience and hard work do pay off. And the temptation to cheat your way to it doesn’t necessarily exist.
It takes tremendous courage to honour one’s pace in life, especially in relation to society’s current pressure to succeed fast. However, uprooting our mental health and emotional well-being to do so isn’t advisable. Every now and then, we need to revisit our mental health as a necessity and put it first in line when it comes to achieving personal success. Everything else can follow.
We need to stop pulling ourselves down
Last month, I was visiting my husband’s cousins in Bangalore. This was my first time meeting them in a casual capacity and not under the constraints of a family get-together. During one such meet-up, drinks were passed, board games were played and soon conversations flowed in. Real estate, high-paying jobs, share market, Bangalore commute infrastructure, much was discussed and debated. Youngest of all and fairly new in my current job, I did not have much to contribute (not discounting my introverted self, I usually don’t speak much). It is not that I don’t have any interest in business conversations, I would rather speak where I trust my strengths lie (pop culture, you ask? Yes!). I made a few comments here and there, but came home with remarks on ‘oh! she doesn’t speak much.’ One week after the visit, I texted my mother at midnight, crying my heart out about how I felt low because I haven’t made it yet. How I feel so much is left to achieve and how time is just passing by quickly. ‘Soon I will be fifty-year-old aunty’, I exaggerated with a crying emoji.
The next morning, a huge motivational message lay in my inbox. My mother listed out my accomplishments, however little they may be, reiterating how proud she is. I still have moments of self-doubt, and perhaps I always will, but I am also learning to honour my pace, trust in my instincts and just keep with the commitment.
So, embrace the moments of productivity, joy, and achievements as they come and go, but don’t feel guilty if you don’t “pick a new skill,” or “learn something new” every day. Take your time.
P.S. Next week, I will finally take my first step towards investments (courtesy of my husband). And oh man! How proud I feel.
Suggested Reading: Problematic Engagement: The Dark Side Of Social Media Influencing