Times have certainly changed. How many of you have been told by your parents or an older relative that when they were your age, they were/had_____________ (and you can fill in the blank)? That’s a lot of pressure to expect the same actions on a different generation. Lately, major life decisions are being deferred to later ages like the thirties and forties. But that doesn’t mean that the twenties aren’t an important decade for personal and professional development. But it can be hard to feel successful when there’s so many definitions of success out there. Social media is flooded with people flaunting their successful lifestyles and making it super hard to even want to get out of bed if you’re not at that level yet. So here are 3 things to remember whenever you begin to feel like a failure in your twenties.
1. Success is relative
What does success mean to you? How will you know when you have achieved it? What is your marker? Is it having completed a particular task by a particular age? I know someone who just graduated with her Master’s degree in Psychology at the age of 21 and she feels like a complete failure. I’m 26 and I’m still not done with my Master’s programme. Does that make me a failure because someone finished at a younger age than me? Does it mean I have failed when my friends get to travel the world for their studies but I had to go to school online? Have I failed because my high school and college classmates are getting married now and I’m not? This is the biggest mistake we make when measuring our success.
Like one of my favourite leaders, Robert Madu said, ‘It’s like when you’re at the gym, and you begin competing with the person on the treadmill on the side of you.’ Life is not a competition. Olympic Gold medallists don’t win by looking at their competitors while they run. They have to focus and stay in their own lane, with their eyes on the finish line. God has set a unique race for each and every one of us. Not one is the same. Comparison will consistently cloud the clarity of God’s call on our lives. No one else can complete the thing that God has called us to do so we need to keep our eyes off another person’s race and focus on our own life.
2. If you achieved everything now, what would you have to look forward to?
I personally have different things that I want for myself at different ages. But society has a funny way of making kids feel as if they have failed if they haven’t done something already. Society seems to think that because of technology and “more opportunities that weren’t around in their days” we should essentially all be at the tops of our careers by now. But if we do magically achieve everything we’ve ever hoped for in our twenties, what else is our motivator?
Looking at achievements as stepping stones to bigger achievements that are a part of a bigger grand plan is a great way to keep pushing forward. We can always improve one way or another and there is no such thing as perfect. So you have your master’s, what’s next? PhD? Travelling? The world is your oyster at this stage so don’t take anything for granted!
3. Late doesn’t mean never
You’re probably thinking, “Okay, I get it, if I don’t do that thing yet, or if that job hasn’t come through yet, I shouldn’t lose hope. But how long should I have to wait?” And you’re right; it’s the waiting that is the worst part. I graduated in 2011 and worked as a secretary for 5 years before finally getting a job in my field. During this waiting period, I took advantage of my time and developed my skills. I got much better in Microsoft Office, picked up photography, cooking, Latin dances, and even a little graphic designing. None of this had anything to do with my job as a secretary; but there’s one saying that really got me through it. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” If you want to get to a particular point in life, you have to do things to get there. Professional Development is critical and taking advantage of free online resources is a great way to prepare yourself for the career of your dreams. Don’t believe me? Ask people like Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm, Leslie Jones and Steve Carell, how old they were when they got their start.
However you get to the finish line, and however long it takes you to get to the finish line, should never diminish your feelings of success. All that matters is that you do finish, and your finished product is something you can look at it and say, “I gave it my all”.
I will leave you with one of my favourite scripture verses, Galatians 6:9 (NLT) - So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.
What are some things that you do whenever you begin to feel like you've failed or criticise yourself? Share your favourite techniques in the comment section below!