On not having it all figured out

Saturday, 2 May 2015

I, like many others, feel this enormous pressure to have my life figured out. I need to know my career plans, how I'm going to achieve those plans, who I am, where I want to be in ten, twenty, thirty years, and I need to be acting on all of those things, now.

Sounds like a lot doesn't it? But so many of us, particularly those in their late teens and early twenties, feel this pressure. Ironically, though, much of the time we don't seem to realise that everyone around us feels it, too. Instead, because we see many of those people working or going to university or going on internships, we feel as though they have it all figured out. We think they know exactly who they are, what they want to do and where they're going, but in reality, although they may have some idea, nine times out of ten they're as unsure as you are, or at least not far off. Just because someone is pursuing a particular career or life path doesn't mean they're completely certain it's what they want; it may well just be that that is the thing they are most drawn to, so rather than waiting for something they are one hundred percent sure on, they've decided to follow that path and let their aspirations expand and evolve along the way, with the hope that they will stay within a similar field.

The truth is, very few of us have it all figured out at once, let alone at a young age. Very often I put this pressure on myself to have it all sussed, but recently I've been stepping back and looking at my life more objectively, as though it were someone else's, and the one big realisation I've had? I'm still so young. With my 19th birthday just around the corner I am barely an adult, yet I expect to know  and understand myself as fully as someone who has been on this earth much longer might, although even someone who has been here fifty years or more still might not know every aspect of themselves; we are constantly growing and developing, and it's impossible to be able to know and predict ourselves and our lives down to a T.

So why do we put this pressure on ourselves? Granted, in some situations pressure can push you to work harder, faster, better, but this is not one of those situations. Rather, when faced with this issue, a gentle approach with a focus on allowing yourself to grow and change is much more effective, and  it can make the whole thing a lot easier on you. For me at least, all pressure does in this instance is cause me to overthink my wants and dreams, and most decisions I make with regard to my future I end up questioning, wondering whether it's really what I want and if in ten years time I'll feel it was the right decision. With a bit of perspective, this seems ludicrous. How can we really expect ourselves to know which decisions will turn out to be the right ones ten years down the line? And how can we expect ourselves not to change? We are shaped by so many factors, from our experiences to our environment, even our relationships, and these things will inevitably alter the way we think and the things we want. So, why do we hold this inevitability against ourselves? Why do we grow frustrated or even angry at ourselves for this change?

Instead of this intolerance, we should be comfortable enough in these inevitable changes and shifts within ourselves that we can say, 'Okay, so this is who I am now, this is what I want now. I may not be this person tomorrow and I may want something different, but right now this is all I know and that's okay', just as we should be able to say 'I don't know who, where or what I want to be in ten year's time, but I don't need to'. That's not to say we shouldn't have dreams or aspirations, because they can give us direction and something to strive for, but at the same time if we don't know what they are, we should be forgiving and understanding towards ourselves for that and not pile on this crippling pressure; after all, if it were one of your friends feeling this way, the last thing you would do is say to them day after day 'But you should know what you want to do, everyone else around you does, so why don't you?', so why do that to yourself?

At the end of the day, we have our entire lives to discover ourselves, our passions, our wants and desires, so there's no need or reason to put pressure on ourselves to know it all; just go with what you know now, and let the rest come naturally.



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