“The hardest part of being alive? Well, we are told that it is the twenties, or perhaps the period between the very late teens and early thirties. Studies have shown that when older people were asked what stage of life was the hardest most said the 20s, a stage they really wouldn’t want to go through again.” -The Infographics Show
The 20s is quite a trying time. Isn’t this the peak of our lives? A time of freedom?
Then why do I feel confused as if I am a disoriented baby bird that has just left the nest?
This is a time where everything is supposed to be coming together. We are immersed in adulthood, we are capable of making our own decisions, and we are in control of most aspects of our lives. I think independence is something we all crave, something that previous generations must have had by this point, but still I think many of us are dependent on our parents more than we care to be. We are leaning on our friends and family at this point to support us emotionally and financially as we look for work or opportunities to continue our education. Although our bodies may be the most healthy at this stage of our lives, I feel that our minds require constant attention as it is a time where our mental health can be vulnerable to a lack of direction and purpose.
At this stage, many of us are also not financially independent. Upon finishing school, we have the responsibility to pay back student loans. In order to pay back loans, you need a job. In order to get a job, you need to have skills learned from school and other experiences. There is so much anxiety when applying for jobs. There is anxiety about whether or not you have enough experience, whether your education and experience is good enough to make it into the job market, and whether you can successfully integrate into the job life as a young professional (because full-time life is a huge change!). After spending almost your entire life in the school system, that becomes all you know. This transition can be scary thing, and it’s not uncommon to feel insecure about your abilities and what the future holds for you. We are all learning to take responsibility.
Insecurity is a tricky thing. It can make you feel inadequate compared to others, so much so that you become withdrawn from society and don’t want to talk to friends and family until you are validated by something like a job offer. The reality is, most of us go through this period and have gone through similar struggles, so reaching out is not only a smart thing to do because you can get advice from others who understand your position, but it is a healthy thing to do to stay connected and avoid a toxic, cyclical way of thinking. It is normal to feel insecure, but it is not productive to dwell on these thoughts.
I remind myself to do a couple of things to take care of my mental health during this time:
- Do your best to keep a positive attitude
Positive thinking has the power to change your outlook on life and it can positively influence your actions.
- Have a good support network
Surround yourself with positive-thinking people and connect with them to share how you feel. It can be tempting, but don’t isolate yourself in this time where you require connection the most.
- Take care of your physical and mental health
This means the usual: sleep well, exercise frequently, eat well and drink lots of water. It also means reflecting on your life and taking care of your mind (you can do this by writing, meditating, etc.).
- Contribute to society
At a time where you feel self-absorbed about your abilities and worth, it may be helpful to volunteer and give back to your community to maintain that connection with society and do something good for others. This can also be an opportunity to build your skill set and improve your resume.
- Make the most out of your time
Read that book you’ve always wanted to, take that trip abroad, or spend some quality time with your dog.
- Dress for success, even when you’re at home or a coffee shop and don’t expect company
This tip sounds a little strange, but I think it can be damaging to your confidence to be in your pajamas for, I don’t know, a week straight. It’s important to maintain confidence and self-respect especially in times of insecurity, and dressing up a little bit is a small thing you can do that may change how you feel! It helps me to be more productive sometimes, and it makes it easier to picture myself at a job.
This post is inspired by all the other 20-somethings that are looking for some direction in their lives. This is a time that really requires patience, persistence, and discipline on your part. Be disciplined and keep a regular routine that will force you to apply to jobs, be persistent in the job hunt, and be patient because it’ll take time for people to respond. Best of luck! I’m rooting for you.