I constantly feel pressured to sort my life out.
As soon as I could talk well-meaning adults asked me, “And what do you want to be when you grow up Madeleine?”
My teenage years and early twenties saw more insistent questioning with people I barely even knew asking, “What do you want to do when you leave school?” and “How about after uni?”
It’s no wonder I gave an internal sigh of relief once I finally entered the workforce, naively believing the questioning to be done.
But oh no no, it was back with a venegence.
“How’s work, are you enjoying your job?”
“No? Why not? What are you going to do to fix it?”
Oh, and don’t forget the old, “When do you think you’ll get married?” and “How many kids do you want to have? When are you having them?”
I recently stepped back to examine this whole thing after getting more and more frustrated with the pressure to have it all sorted out. After an uncomfortable period of self-reflection, I realised a lot of my troubles were of my own making.
Those pesky, agitating questions about my grand plan usually took on one of two forms. They were either from well-meaning friends and family truly invested in my journey or they were absent-minded conversation fillers from people who didn’t give them a second thought.
What I realised was, the questions said less about the people asking them, and more about the internal pressure I’d been putting on myself.
The reason they had me so riled up was because I’d been asking myself the same thing over and over since I was a kid, and I hated the fact I didn’t always have a confident answer.
I felt the weight of the opportunities laid out before me and the imagined expectations of the people who worked so hard to give me those opportunities in the first place.
I’m speaking in past tense but it really should be present. I struggle with this stuff even now.
I get so frustrated that I don’t have it all figured out. And I constantly compare my success with the success achieved by the people around me and the young successful people I see on social media.
You are not alone
For a while I thought I was alone with these thoughts but now I know there is a sea of other young people going through exactly the same thing.
Some of my closest friends are struggling right at this moment after investing a whole heap of time and money in a university education they no longer want or need.
I have friends in dead-end jobs too afraid to leave because they don’t know where to go, and others hating themselves for not living up to their own messed-up expectations.
What I’ve realised is that so much of this pressure to have it all “figured out” is just a lens we choose to look through to evaluate our life. It’s all perspective.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t have anything figured out, and then I step back and realise, wait a minute, I’ve completed a uni degree I enjoyed, I have a job that’s rewarding and the friends and family most people only dream of.
But I keep comparing my life and my progress to a check list about where I think I’m meant to be. And I frequently don’t measure up.
So where to now?
Well. I’m attempting to throw out that stupid list and focus on what really matters.
I’ve made a huge amount of progress lately by learning to act on the things that I do know for sure, and worrying less about the things that I don’t.
If I’m not sure where I want to live, when I’ll get married or how many children I want to have, I try not to worry about it and rest assured that I’ll figure it out soon.
What I attempt to focus on instead, is all of the things that I DO know for sure.
Like writing and communication and building up that professional skill set. Like connecting with other young professional women and starting conversations about the things that really matter.
People who look like they have it all figured out usually don’t, it’s all filters and good lighting.
And a good old reality check helps to hit home about how fortunate my problem really is.
My struggle of figuring out exactly what I want my life to look like is exactly the type of problem a lot of my family were never fortunate enough to have.
They didn’t get the option to choose, they just followed the narrow path set out in front of them. And they ended up achieving amazing things anyway.
Appreciate the journey
So I’m building an appreciation for my ability to choose, and my ability to wade through hundreds of options before arriving at a decision. Instead of dwelling on the pressure, I’m learning to love it. And in turn that pressure is beginning to lift. I guess I’ve stopped trying so hard and just gone with my gut.
So here I am guys. Showing up despite not having it all figured out.
And I encourage you to start doing the same. I encourage you to reach out and share the journey because I am right there with you.
Life is a journey. Not a destination.
Start having the conversation with someone you can trust. Heck, why not write it down and email it over to me? (At least you know we’re on the same page.)
We need to talk about the pressure we’re feeling and the patches of uncertainty we face. What are you worried about? What scares you at the moment and what are you doing because you feel like you have to, not because you actually want to?
Once you start talking about it you’ll begin to realise a lot of the pressure and expectations you face are all of your own making.
My advice? Detach from it. Take the pressure off. The universe is sending you more signals than you know, and if you relax enough to let the signals in, it will all work itself out. The people who really matter don’t want you stuck in a career or relationship you hate. They want you fulfilled and happy.
So let go and step up. And start giving yourself a break, because life’s too short to be worried about a stupid list and how you measure up.
Until next time,