I’m 21 years old.
It’s an awesome age, a strange age and a paradoxical age in terms of societal expectations. This is because you are seen as simultaneously young and mature.
I think this paradoxical approach explains the twenty-something’s dilemma regarding what they should have achieved by now.
I bumped into someone I went to high school with the other day. She’s married, got a kid and a stable job already. I hope she will forgive me for using her as a springboard to my thoughts. I know several people my age who are married and with children on the way and I will also not be using any identifying fact in this blog post.
Anyway, I couldn’t help but think how radiant and happy she looked. After we finished a brief chat, my heart was filled with genuine joy. I thought, ‘Wow. She’s so happy! Great for her, doing awesome things with her life!’ and then I walked away.
It then occurred to me that if I told anyone about our chance meeting, I would probably get the familiar response of:
‘Wow! X has a kid? I feel so old now!’
‘Look at her! Husband and job like a proper adult! And what am I doing with my life? Clubbing and watching Netflix!’
‘Ugh. She’s putting us all to shame.’
And this thought made me really sad because although I am 100% guilty of comparing myself to other people in other departments, I can confidently say I do not compare myself to others in the ‘life accomplishment’ department.
Granted, I have made similiar comments because I feel that’s what should be said. I then instantly chastise myself for making such comments, even in jest. So here is a PBA (Public Beration Announcement): I’m going to try my hardest not to say any of those silly, self-deprecating things just so I can fit in with what everyone else is saying/feeling.
There’s nothing wrong with saying such things as a joke, but most of the time I can really sense the underlying jealousy behind those words.
But how on earth do you stay happy when you’re single, not satisfied with your job and still enjoy a healthy dose of Netflix marathoning?
Simple. You stay happy!
And okay, if that’s really not helpful, here is how I’ll break it down/what works for me…
- MAKE YOUR OWN GOALS
Honestly, the number one reason I never feel jealous about life accomplishments is because I’ve made my own short-term and long-term goals. How does this help? Simple. Because my short-term goals do not currently include a 9-5 job in a law environment, nor do they include a husband at twenty-one, nor do they even include travelling the world before I hit 23 (although that would be awesome). So why on earth would I be sad that I’m not currently living that life? So when I see people accomplishing all these amazing things, I am free to be happy for them, proud of them and even support them. My best friend recently got married. It was such a joyful day for her but guess what? It was a super joyful day for me too! Jealousy is a negative emotion and like it or not, it will cloud your reaction to these events. You can’t be fully proud and supportive of a friend if you secretly wish you have what they do. Nor can you learn from someone if you are jealous of them. But true joy for their situation gives you the benefit of listening to them clearly, free of judgement and self-deprecation. When I see people travelling the world, I am happy and I make a mental note of how they’re doing it because somewhere down the line, that is my goal. But it’s for much later. Make your own goals 🙂
- RE-EVALUATE YOUR GOALS
Just because you have your own goals doesn’t mean you won’t feel jealous. It’s entirely possible to make goals and then still want what someone else has. For example, say you have a goal to start your own business and so you are focusing almost exclusively on that. But whilst this is happening, your other friend gets a PhD, or buys a house or moves to another country. Just because you have your own goals doesn’t mean you don’t want these things too, right? So how on earth are you meant to not be jealous?
Well now it’s time to re-evaluate your goals, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Check your values. This might be painful but it’s helpful in the long run. Your jealousy may be the result of working towards the wrong goal. Perhaps after reassessment, you realise that what actually matters more to you than starting a business, is living abroad. Well in that case, adjust your goals and work towards that one instead. You’re human. You can be flexible. Be honest with yourself – it’s your duty to live up to your expectations. Here’s the thing –you’re going to have to make some sacrifices to make your goal happen. So make sure it’s something worth sacrificing for. Maybe sacrificing getting that postgraduate right now is worth the joy and fulfillment of starting your business. Maybe not crossing the Niagra Falls or living in the Amazon right now is worth the sacrifice of staying home and raising your kids. So acknowledge which sacrifices will have to be made and then chase what you want (not what others want) wholeheartedly. This means that when others accomplish something, you can rest in the confidence that their accomplishment is worth currently sacrificing for what you’re working towards now.
For help with establishing life goals, I recommend: How to Reach Your Life Goals – Peter J. Daniels
- TAKE AWAY THE TIME PRESSURE
So, er…twenty-something’s. Here’s a little secret: you’re twenty-somethings! We’re not old, no matter how much we joke about it. So please, can we enjoy life as it is and stop thinking we need to have achieved one billion and one things? I’m not saying to be lazy and to coast through life because hey, life is short. But it’s long enough to truly enjoy if you focus on what you need to get done and not what the world tells you to get done in a very specific time frame. I know someone who dropped out of school, went travelling, published a book about it and is currently living abroad, enjoying life. Flipping yes! I on the other hand, have always lived in the UK, and am about to finish my Masters. Flipping yes! We’re both living our best life right now! What good is it to compare your life?! My path is not only different in direction, but different in time.
4. SEPARATE INSPIRATION FROM JEALOUSY
So what happens if you have the same life goal as someone else, which you projected into the same time frame but said person has accomplished the goal and you haven’t? On one hand, yeah, that sucks. But on the other hand, this is awesome! Why? Because it means your goal can be accomplished! You have physical proof of this before your eyes. Sounds like inspiration to me. It also means that you now have someone to listen to and learn from. And, if you’ve been nice to them (continue reading to find out how this works – dang it, I should’ve written this in order shouldn’t I?) they will probably be glad to help you out. My mother calls this having a ‘teachable spirit’ and she is right. Be inspired by people and ask them how they did things. Inspiration promotes motivation which promotes action, which promotes hard work, which promotes results. Jealousy promotes bitterness.
I also recommend this video by iiSuperwomanii.
5. DO WHAT YOU CAN
I genuinely think that if you’re so busy working on yourself, you’ll have no time to work on harvesting jealousy. It’s a theory though, so test it out and let me know what you think. A while ago I found myself comparing my weight to someone else who had a six pack. Why oh why wasn’t I exercising as much as them?! But then I realised, hey, I was in a position of getting four hours of sleep a night with constant back to back meetings every day. Not only was time scarce, but so was energy. Could I change that? Uhm…not if I wanted to accomplish what I was working towards in that specific moment! Therefore it was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to schedule in an hour’s workout every day. So instead, I worked on what I could change: i.e. walking up the stairs to meetings, instead of getting the elevator, increasing my steps during my commute, etc. And I felt whole lot better because I knew I was doing what I could do, not what somebody else could do. Same theory applies to our love lives. During university I wasn’t too bothered by relationships at all, yet when I left I thought I’d try out this whole dating thing as I now had more time. Instead of sitting around complaining that there were ‘no good guys’ I simply bought a book, read up on the dating scene and used it to get from 0 dates a week to at least 3. (I recommend Get the Guy by Matthew Hussey). Personally, I really enjoy and benefit from self-help books. Maybe that’s not your style. Cool. So find the method that works for you. The trick is to do what you can, when you can.
So, I hope this was helpful. I truly believe being happy for others helps you in the long run. Why? Because jealousy is a whole lot more obvious than you think. And someone is a lot more likely to help you out if you’ve genuinely supported them in the past or at least been glad for them. We all know those friends who claim to be happy for us but are secretly seething when we accomplish something. On the other hand, we hopefully have friends or colleagues who are so happy for us. It’s contagious! Be honest. You’re more likely to feel more favourable to the latter friends, right? So don’t go around pretending to be happy, just be happy. I have a friend who is AMAZING at this. She is constantly overjoyed whenever I achieve something. And guess what? I’ll return the favour! She’s doing it right!
So that’s just how I’m happy in the moment. I hope you are too 🙂 What works for you? Let me know!