For the past few years, I have been worrying about where my life is heading, whether I’m making the right choices to get me where I need to be and whether what I’m currently doing will leave me with regret.
These feelings started after I underwent major surgery after a flare up of ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease.
Due to the complications of the operations, I have been left not being able to do as much as other 22-year-olds are able to do.
Before the operation, I was care-free, I was out all the time, I was doing fun activities and, best of all, I was able to commit myself to things I was passionate about.
Things have changed.
I am unable to do many of the things I did before and my health can be quite hit and miss.
Because the operation was so serious, it’s changed my outlook on life.
Beforehand, I thought I had a life plan, now I know that anything can change for you in the blink of an eye and that you never really know what’s around the corner.
While I know this, it doesn’t stop me feeling frustrated that I’m not as active as I once was – and sometimes I even feel guilty, as though I can help it. Of course, there have been times where I’ve convinced myself that I can help it – but I soon realise I can’t when things seem like a struggle.
And it doesn’t stop me wishing things were different, either. It doesn’t stop me thinking I’m never going to get to where I need to be.
However, recently I’ve started to question whether I need to be anywhere at all. And the answer is no.
Of course there are places in life where I want to be, but the fact is they are not a necessity right now.
There is absolutely no rush for me to have fulfilled all of my dreams in a short space of time. There is no pressure on me to move faster than my body will allow me to.
In fact, the only person putting pressure on me is myself.
I have somehow managed to convince myself that it’s not okay to take things slow, that I’m running out of time.
I’ve thought that it’s not okay to go at my pace, simply because others may not be doing the same thing around me.
And I’ve realised that a huge part of these feelings are influenced by what I see on social media.
You scroll through Facebook and you see pregnancy announcements, baby photos, engagement rings and wedding pictures.
You head to Twitter and you read all about people who have gone off to fancy events and are progressing in work.
And then you go over to Instagram where you see endless travel photos and fitness journeys.
All the while you’re wondering whether any of these things are going to happen to you any time soon and how you can make them happen even before you’re ready for them.
The thing is, that it’s so easy to feel succumbed by somebody else’s life.
You can go through life not wanting one particular thing, but as soon as you see it displayed all over, making that one thing seem like the most impressive thing on earth, you want it.
It doesn’t matter that it’s never had an impact on your life before, that you’ve never wanted it before, just seeing how happy it makes someone else is enough to make you question whether that’s what you need too.
And this is something many of us are guilty of – judging our own needs by what other people’s needs are.
Instead of focusing on ourselves, what we like and what makes us happy, we compare ourselves to other people, becoming convinced that their feelings are much greater than ours.
And this is something we desperately need to stop doing. We need to stop worrying about other people’s lives and the things they do for themselves, and put that focus on ourselves and our own happiness.
We need to stop worrying about where exactly our lives are heading because every day is different and things out of your control can impact your entire future.
While you can plan, you’re never actually going to know where your life is going to end up.
It seems hard at first, and I’m guilty of all the things above. But I know deep down that worrying about what’s going to happen in weeks or months or even years to come is pointless.
Instead of panicking that you’re not progressing in life fast enough, or that you don’t know quite where your life is heading, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Don’t panic that you’re not in the place you thought you’d be five years ago.
Don’t worry that your job prospects have changed and maybe you need to go back and learn a bit more to be where you want to be.
Don’t worry if you’re not ready for marriage, kids or even a serious relationship. If you let it and are open to it, everything will happen naturally.
Never try to force a lifestyle on yourself simply because you think it’s the right one.
Honestly, if you’re having to tell yourself it’s right, it’s probably not.
Don’t let anyone else pressure you into thinking your life has to be a certain way, or feel guilty for not knowing what way exactly you’d like it. Everything will fall into place eventually.
And most importantly – never compromise your health just because you feel you’re in a race against yourself.
We just need to take every day and enjoy it, instead of focusing on the day ahead. Because every tomorrow is today’s yesterday, and if we’re constantly worrying about where we’re going to be, how can we enjoy either?
Of course, it’s not always so easy to simply stop worrying about the future, we get that – but it can be much easier if your mind is focused on the right things.
Metro.co.uk spoke with psychologist Portia Hickey, who told us that a good way to stop putting pressure on yourself is to ‘clarify and simplify’ your goals and priorities into a list.
After the list is made, she says it’s important to remind yourself that it is simply not possible to do everything at once.
Simplify these goals by finding out which is most important and don’t force yourself to have a time-limit on completing them.
‘When you start to feel highly pressured or emotional, stop and listen to your inner critic,’ Portia says.
‘Then challenge what your inner critic is saying to you: Is what your inner critic saying realistic?’
Portia adds that you should always sit back and question that little voice in your head telling you you’re falling behind.
‘What evidence do you have that what it says is true, what evidence is there that what it is says is false?’
It’s also important to remember that you are not the only one feeling as though you’re not progressing in life.
‘Feeling like you haven’t accomplished enough or progressed quickly enough is very common, ‘especially at critical milestones in your life like certain birthdays or key events,’ Portia says.
‘It is important that we take a broad view of our life at these junctures and not just focus on work/life accomplishments.
‘For some of us, feelings of failure may have taken over our thoughts to such an extent that we need some extra help.
For instance, have you ever had a friend or relative list all the good things in your life yet you’ve still been unable to see them as positives?’
However, healthcare psychologist Judi James adds that feelings of failure can be stress-associated.
‘You might need help to deal with your stress levels to get those failure thoughts to vanish,’ she says.
‘If you find that you view even positive things and achievements in your life as failures, then it would be wise to get professional help for any potential stress or depression first.
‘Talk to your GP and see what they suggest. One suggestion could be for talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is often used to treat anxiety, depression and stress.’
Of course, there are other causes to low self-esteem than stress. As mentioned, Instagram can be a huge factor.
Portia says that it makes many people feel envious and inadequate, leading people to questions such as ‘What’s wrong with me that I am not doing that?’
Seeing photos of other people ‘living in the moment’ can make you question your own lifestyle choices – and whether you’re making them wrongly, or not living up to your full potential just because may appear to be doing so online.
However, she highlights that it’s important to ask why a person may be documenting their time on social media – is it to just that, document, or is there more to it?
‘Ask yourself why these people might be posting these pictures and stories on Facebook/Instagram rather than just experiencing the moment (like most people do),’ she says.
(Source Metro UK)