1. Realize that your problems are everyone’s problems.
It’s easy to work yourself into an insane kind of paranoia/depression about the current state of affairs. You have a lot of debt, jobs are really hard to find, you’re not getting paid enough, you might have to move in with your parents, you feel lied to by every authority figure to ever come into your life from the age of five. Guess what, though? So does everyone else. Everyone — friends, cousins, even the put-together looking strangers you pass on the street — is facing these same realities. Yes, there are a few people who managed to find an amazing job working in PR fifteen minutes after graduation and live in this incredibly well-decorated one-bedroom by themselves and often go out to nice restaurants for dinner — but those people are few and far between. And I know, they won’t stop rubbing it in our collective faces on Facebook. It’s unfortunate. But just ignore those people (or kill them and take their lives, whichever), because stressing about how inferior you are isn’t going to suddenly make their lives any less awesome. For 99 percent of the rest of us, we’re all struggling to figure this out, and whether you’re slogging it out doing data entry or waiting on tables with five kids who leave a three percent tip, times are tough. Don’t let yourself think that you’re the only one having trouble making ends meet/realizing your dream of being a ballerina-astronaut-mermaid, and the rest of society is laughing at you — we’re all in this together.
2. Understand that people likely aren’t talking about you, they’re probably not even thinking of you.
We have this strange tendency to believe that those around us think about us/what we’re doing/who we’re sleeping with/what we ate for breakfast far, far more than they actually do. It’s so narcissistic, even if coated in a thin layer of insecurity and self-deprecation. If we let ourselves, we’ll construct entire alternate realities in which our friends are talking behind our back, that girl in Accounts Receivable has it out for us, and the guy at Starbucks absolutely hates us. In all honesty, we probably don’t cross their minds — and when we do, it’s likely in a passing “hmm” more than anything. We are so quick to blame on maliciousness things that are often done out of inattention or thoughtlessness, and though it’s not nice to be occasionally forgotten about, it’s certainly preferable to being acutely detested by the universe at large. At the end of the day, no one thinks about us more than we do, and it’s better to accept the reality that we’re all just too consumed with ourselves to think that much about anyone else.
3. Accept that everyone struggles with their appearance.
We’ve all had moments where we felt like a tub of margarine trying on a pair of pants in an American Apparel, or caught a glimpse of our sweaty, blotchy faces in the bathroom mirror at a bar mid-dance session, and thought, “Oh, god, I look like a melting wax statue of my former self.” No one likes these moments; it’s not fun to realize that you’re not always quite as sexy as your semi-misleading profile pictures might suggest. But the truth is that we all go through the waxes and wanes of feeling awesome about how we look and, yes, as with everything in life — some have it worse than others. Yet even the people that we all might consider “beautiful” have minor breakdowns if they catch themselves at a bad moment, or realize that they are not immune to the cruel hands of time on their youthful complexion. No matter how beautiful we are, we’re all going to be old and wrinkly some day anyway, and we have to be a little easier on each other — and ourselves — about the process we all have to go through to get to the sweet, sweet age where we give zero f-cks about what we look like.
4. Like what you like, and stop caring about whether or not it’s “cool.”
There will always be people in your life who insist on telling you that a hobby, or a band, or even a set of curtains you picked out for your new apartment are not up to par. These people are called “haters,” and you will encounter many in your life. Understand that, for the most part, they don’t even really care about you. They just like to hate on stuff. It makes us feel superior to others, if only temporarily, to feel that our tastes are better than others. And if we’re being honest, we could all afford to stop being haters ourselves. We all have our moments of judging the f-ck out of our friends or even a stranger walking down the street in Crocs and a promotional hoodie. Who amongst us hasn’t looked at a former high school classmate’s Facebook and had a brief moment of smug satisfaction over how much of a hot mess they’ve become in such a short time? We could all afford to stop being concerned with what’s “cool” or what “looks good,” and focus more on what makes us all happy.
5. Finally forget the people that aren’t worth your time.
The next time you catch yourself obsessively googling the guy that never called you back for a second date two years ago after you were sure you two really hit it off and it was a done deal what the hell, or calling the frenemy that makes you feel like an enormous, insecure worm every time you two see each other, stop it. Stop it, stop it, stop it. No, really, stop it. These people don’t like you. They aren’t interested in treating you like a full human being, and every time you extricate yourself from the inevitable shame spiral of factoring them into your life whatsoever, you’ll realize that you once again let them win, beating our your dignity and self-worth in the process. There are so many people who actually love us and treat us like they want to be in our lives for more than just the convenient moments, and we’re so quick to ignore them the second our phone rings with the people who dangle their affection in front of us like an oversized dog treat. You know what that actually makes us? Bad people. We’re being awful to the people who love us. The assholes in our lives are turning us into assholes. We can’t let this happen.
6. Stop acting like your parents are a nuisance in your busy, awesome life.
Whatever you have planned today, take at least five minutes out of that hectic schedule of being a venture capitalist, building skyscrapers in Dubai, and dating supermodels to say hi to mom and dad. They would be happy to hear from you, it’s always nice to know that someone is thinking of you, and frankly it’s the least you could do after all they have done for you from the ages of birth to, well, to be determined. Let’s be honest, there will always be moments when we need to go ask mumsy and dadsy for a little advice, or help, or a place to crash, or maybe a couple bucks just to tide you over til the end of the month. Let’s be loving, responsible adult children that give as well as receive in this relationship. Go give them a call — you’ll be surprised to find out that they’re actually real people with things to say outside of “Can you please clean out the boxes in the basement?” I certainly was.
7. Understand that, in the end, you’re the one who has to live with you.
We can spend our lives trying to impress everyone around us, making our jobs sound more awesome than they actually are, and making social connections with people we think will prove to be “useful” but whom we can’t actually stand — but we shouldn’t be surprised if everything starts being incredibly lame. You can make all of the “right” decisions and sound awesome to your parents’ judgy friends at dinner parties, or you can do what you really want and succeed or fail by your own terms. No matter what paths we take, or people we bring into our lives, there’s going to come a moment where we’re just hanging out by ourselves and have to deal with the repercussions of all the choices we’ve made. It’s then that we’ll find out if the relationship we’re in, the city we inhabit, the careers we’ve chosen are all things that actually make us happy, or just things that we felt we “needed” to meet some invisible standard. And all those people we spent years trying to impress? Yeah, they probably don’t remember who you are. After all, they’ve got their own image to worry about.