How to be a content twenty-something

I think the modern world can be a tough place for twenty-somethings. It’s all too easy to compare our successes (or shortcomings) with our peers. The internet and social media can incite joy-draining comparison, getting a good job is no mean feat, and I have HOW much student debt?!

We’re still finding our feet in the ‘real’ world, especially after university, when everything was so comfortable. We had independence, but it was a safe sort of independence, with only a hint of responsibility, if any.  It can take a bit of time to adjust and I’ve identified a few things that I’ve learned along the way, mainly to do with self-acceptance and self-confidence.

These are not abstract tips by any means, I’m obviously no expert, but here’s my two (or three) cents…

1. Be true to who you are. I’m an introvert and I’m perfectly happy with that. When I was a teenager, I felt that I ought to talk to everybody and to try and have as many friends as possible, to be very sociable, even though it wasn’t me. I have a small circle of friends and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy my own company too, which is something I used to feel guilty about. In my biology classes for instance, I would have chatted with classmates but I didn’t feel the need to try and develop more friendships. And this is totally ok! Certainly they can develop organically, but that feeling of needing to make friends is gone. Going around without that feeling of expectation, real or perceived, is definitely a weight off the old shoulders.

2. Don’t overthink. Again, when I was a teenager, I was an over-thinker in a big way. I would have analysed things I said – just normal conversations, nothing of any real importance – and wondered how I sounded to the person I was speaking to. Basically doing other people’s thinking for them, which is never a good idea. I was very self-aware, painfully self-conscious, and I tried to envision how others perceived me. It was exhausting and an enormous waste of time. I’m not sure if it was a conscious attempt to overcome this, or if it has come from life experience, but it’s something that has definitely faded with time.

3. Speak up. I have never liked confrontation. I would have avoided it like the plague if I could; if someone annoyed or wronged me, I would often just stop bothering with them instead of confronting them about whatever it was they done. I would have justified my silence as higher-ground stuff; that I was simply not bothered enough by it to, well, bother with confronting. This is what I hoped they would think, anyway. But I have some regrets about this from my school days where some people definitely should have got a piece of my mind. I ended up carrying around resentment for them which caused me further upset, while they just got on with their life scot free, probably laughing about what a soft touch I was. People’s behaviour/actions can be totally unacceptable, and I now think it would be equally unacceptable of me to just ignore it. Though thankfully there’s no real dramas in my life that call for confrontation, but I like to feel that I will be able to if or when the occasion arises.

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