1. How much debt we have.
Plot twist: All of your friends, no matter what they might be earning, are all counting their money in negative dollars. At best, they’re just like, “Hey, look at how much closer to zero I’m getting every day!” Many of us don’t even have hopes of being on the positive side of the equation until we’re in our mid-forties, and it’s just a reality you live with. Misguided, useless, egregious debt is just something that we have to keep as a baseline of how we view ourselves and our financial futures. It’s not something to scoot under the rug because we imagine that everyone around us was savvy enough to escape from higher education with a little nest egg stored away to start some incredibly put-together adult life. We have debt, it’s okay, no one is judging you for it. (Except for jowly white men who want to put all the blame on our economic predicament on our decision to get the degree they convinced us was necessary in the first place. But they can go fuck themselves.)
2. How many jobs we’ve been rejected from.
Basically everyone needs to just print out all the rejections we’ve received over the past few years and make a giant papier mache parade float of them — except that most of the rejections we’d have to write ourselves, because it’s not like Big Scary Company #235238094 was interested in actually taking two seconds to send us a formal rejection email. They basically just ignore us until we get the point, like some emotionally abusive boyfriend who won’t respond to our increasingly tense text messages and pretends not to see us across the room at the house party.
3. What we want in the future.
The next time you gather up enough courage to earnestly reveal to someone that you don’t want to have children, even though it’s what society mindlessly expects of you simply for existing, and said person responds with a condescending, trite “Oh, you’ll change your mind” and a haughty little laugh, just kick them in the shins. While they’re curled up in the fetal position rubbing their freshly bruised bones, tell them that they’ll feel differently about their pain when they’re older. Then spit on them.
4. How many people we have sex with.
It’s not even just about being perceived as a slut, though that is certainly one of our more frequent judgments about people’s sexual history. People are ashamed about all manner of genital expression. They’re worried that people think they’re a virgin, or that they actually are a virgin, or that they only sleep with people after way too long, or that they do it too quickly, or that their number is too high, or that they’re inexperienced and going to embarrass themselves. No one can win. The only solution is to have sex when you want to, be safe and kind with the people you boink, and demand that same respect in return. It’s not our business to go around talking about someone else’s sex life, and we all know how shitty it feels when someone is doing about ours. If we all just agree to do what we want and have fun, no one will ever have to feel that oh-shit-I-didn’t-study-for-the-test feeling of having to judge what a new partner wants to hear when they ask you your number.
5. The relationship we have with our families.
If you can’t participate in holidays like mother’s day, or don’t have a huge family that you can go home to at holidays, or feel more complicated about it than just “Momz N Dadz R The Best,” that doesn’t make you a bad person. And you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. No matter how many tone-deaf “This is what real moms are!” posts you had to wake up to on Sunday morning.
6. Not having a perfect body.
The only thing we need to worry about is being healthy and treating our bodies well. You don’t owe anyone a sexy body, or being good-looking in any way. And not looking like what you see in a magazine is not a cause for personal shame or guilt. People have cellulite, they have stretch marks, they have birthmarks, they have rolls and bumps and dimples and wrinkles. And those are all perfect bodies, because they do their job and work for us and let us cuddle with each other when we need to be held. No one’s body deserves to be shamed or referred to as not what a “real” man or woman looks like, and no one’s body positivity needs to come at the expense of someone else’s shape. The only shame that should be felt is being a petty enough person to make fun of someone else for what they look like.
7. Not keeping up with what your friends seem to be doing.
Everyone is lying a little bit to make their life look better on Facebook, or at least conveniently omitting the shit that doesn’t look good. Social media has basically become a competition for who can accrue the most likes for witty comments or exciting life achievements, and we simply don’t see the rest of it. (Except for the people who use their statuses as incredibly inappropriate outlets to air their relationship drama, but we won’t address those people.) It’s a glossy version of things, and that’s fine. And we all participate in it, but don’t let it make you feel like you aren’t living up to something. There is nothing to live up to. Everyone poops and cries and fails and feels like shit from time to time, they just don’t post about it on Facebook. You’re not doing so bad, all things considered.