I’d like to think that most of us have a vision for what we imagine our lives to be like in the future. Maybe we’re sitting in a high school classroom, imagining ourselves the following year sitting in a college seminar. Maybe we’re sitting in a college seminar, picturing ourselves after commencement working for a Fortune 500 Company or running a classroom of our own.
Whatever the case, I’d like to think we plan and try to envision a future for ourselves—that I’m not the only one who has done this.
But what happens when that so delicately painted picture is nothing like what reality is? How do we cope with experiencing an alternative reality that we did not necessarily dream up?
This is something I’m trying to navigate through as we speak.
If you told me 10 years ago that I would be where I am currently in life, I wouldn’t believe you for a second. In my mind, I thought I would be working as a full-time sports psychologist, married, owning a home, and maybe even getting ready to start a family. I am and have none of those things, and truthfully, it’s something that has caused me a great deal of anxiety because I’ve felt that somehow I’ve failed. I created this rigid timeline for myself with all of these boxes to check off, and to this point, nothing has been checked off the way I envisioned it would be.
The immense pressure that we put on ourselves oftentimes makes us discredit all of the things we have been able to achieve due to this first draft of life that we draw up. Through a lot of self-reflection (and some therapy), I’ve learned that a lot of this pressure stems from wanting to make the people around us, especially our parents, proud.
Personally, I know that my parents are my toughest critics. I’m always self-conscious that I’m not meeting their standards or making decisions that would please them. This has been a very difficult aspect of “adulting” that I’ve had to learn how to grasp—how to step outside of my parents’ dreams for me and be okay with creating my own.
Besides this lesson, I’ve also learned that “adulting” does not just consist of jobs, marriage, and children. Sure, those are prominent milestones that typically occur in adulthood, but more generally, it’s about forward motion, regardless of what speed you’re traveling at.
It’s also about self-acceptance. How often do we find ourselves scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, comparing ourselves to the people we follow? So-and-so is engaged! So-and-so is loving their job! So-and-so just bought a house! I can sometimes feel the air deflate out of me when I stop and reflect upon how those things aren’t happening in my own life. But does that really even matter? The answer is no because it will happen in due time, and I need to remind myself of that.
Like I said before, I’m still trying to navigate my way through these concepts, but what I do know for certain is that we need to take pride in the things that ARE going for us rather than what isn’t. We have to practice positive self-talk rather than constantly beating ourselves up for not being where we want to be. We need to take time to be genuinely grateful for all of the opportunities that have come our way and all of the amazing people who make up our different support networks.
You don’t have to punch a clock in order to gain a sense of accomplishment. Take a step back and look at everything you’ve been able to achieve up until this point. I’m sure it’s quite a bit to be proud of—remember that.