My name is Napsugar, I live in Brighton, UK and I am 24 years old. I have a First Class Honours university degree, a full-time job in the music industry and an Industry Impact Award to my name. And about 99% of the time, I feel like a total failure.
Recently, I found myself panicking about my age. Not because I’m scared of grey hairs and wrinkles (although I’m not looking forward to those either), but because I’m running out of time to make it on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. I know, that sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
This would be a good time to make sure I fully acknowledge that this is an incredibly first-world-problem to have, and I know that I’m privileged to even have the space and time to think about this; nevertheless, these anxiety-filled thoughts are fully valid, and this topic is worth talking about.
Especially since I realised it’s not just me, and it’s more common than I assumed – many of my friends and colleagues are having similar kinds of thoughts. A frequent (and completely valid) complaint I keep hearing from my friends lately is that this pandemic made it impossible for them to get that promotion they would need in order to progress in their careers, so they can get to a certain position by a certain age.
It got me thinking – why is it not enough to succeed? Why do we feel the pressure to succeed as early as possible?
Based on multiple conversations and research, the answer reveals itself when looking closely at my generation: Gen Y, or in other words, the millennials.
The majority of us grew up hearing our parents say that we are special, that we deserve the world and if we put our minds to it, we can achieve anything.
Hell, if we really want to we can even become the President of the United States! (To be honest, probably any of us would’ve done a better job than ex-President Trump, so they weren’t that far off…)
As nice and encouraging as that sounds, it gave us the false promise that we shall receive all good things in life, just because we simply deserve it – a secure and well-paid job, a promotion, a big house and a comfortable life. Obviously, this is so far from the cold reality, which is that you have to study and work incredibly hard, put in the hours, and even then, success isn’t guaranteed.
In addition, the problem not only lies in us thinking that we deserve everything to fall into our laps but also in our belief that it should happen immediately. Instant gratification is what we’re used to.
You want to have sushi for dinner? It can be delivered to your house within the hour. Did you run out of a product? It can arrive on your doorstep with next day delivery via online shopping. Are you lacking self-confidence? Upload a pretty, polished mirror selfie to Instagram and the likes will be flooding in, bringing with them reassurance and validation (but of course when we get fewer likes than we hoped, we feel like an utter failure too). It’s no wonder that we expect everything else in life to happen the same way. We wish for it, and the universe delivers.
I guess it also doesn’t help that with social media at our fingertips we not only hear about our close circle’s successes, but we can compare ourselves to a whopping billion other people all over the world. We can witness the achievements and follow the seemingly picture-perfect lives of that 1% of the population who “made it”, and that can lead to a distorted view of our own lives.
Furthermore, this phenomenon was heightened by the global pandemic hitting us hard in March 2020, which led countless celebrities to send “we’re all in this together” messages from their million-dollar mansions via Instagram and other online platforms.
Even though their intentions might have been good to start with, the message was so blatantly false, it had the exact opposite effect, and created an even bigger divide between the wealthy elite and “normal people”.
Truthfully, I’ve been fighting this feeling for quite a while now, and I’m not sure if it will ever fade away.
At this point, all I can do is to remind myself of a few core truths, which might be helpful for you as well, if you’re feeling a similar kind of pressure in your day-to-day life:
- Professional success, wealth and social status don’t define you – there’s much more to a person. The people you keep around you, the causes you care about, the way you treat others and the qualities you cultivate. That’s the important stuff.
- It doesn’t matter how quickly it happens – if you set clear goals, work hard, trust that you’re on the right track, eventually, you’ll get there. And if you don’t, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
- Your success might not look like someone else’s, but if you fought for something, make sure you celebrate it when you get it.
- We must remember that what we see online is never the full truth.
- Only compare yourself with yourself – specifically to where you were a year / 5 years ago. Look at how much you’ve already grown, how much you’ve learned.
- Not everyone is born a child prodigy, and that’s okay. Imagine a world in which everyone peaked at 7 – how boring and predictable that would be.
- Most of us are chasing success like it’s the end goal like it’s the ultimate finish line after which we reach happiness and we no longer have to work hard. But that’s not what happens, is it? In reality, we most likely start chasing yet another goal. And this pattern goes on and on and on. So why don’t we slow down a little?
Ultimately we’re all on our unique paths, and there’s not one trusted formula for success. It’s not a race. Actually, it’s called life, and your goals will change, your idea of success will change, and absolutely nothing is set in stone in it.
So breathe, take a step back, feel proud of what you’ve already achieved, and just enjoy the ride.
Written by Napsugár Bardócz. Check out her latest pieces here!
Illustrated by Lou Kiss.