Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?

Young woman in green top posing in street
Young woman in green top posing in street

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am only 23 years old

Emphasis on the only. Yes, I may feel old, but I’m not. I’m hopefully less than a third of the way through my life, maybe a quarter if I’m lucky. I’m still very much “young”, despite the joy I find in staying in and buying new duvets. I’m an old soul, but that doesn’t change my age.

The thing is, society seems to tell us that we have to reach certain milestones at distinct points in our lives. I remember thinking quite clearly when I was in my teens that I would be married with a house and children at 25 years old. I’m less than two years away from 25 now, and I can quite honestly say that I don’t want that to happen. The house, yes, but I’ll be replacing those hypothetical children with dogs for now.

People often comment on how much I take on, which made me realise that I sure do like to fill up my plate a lot. At the moment I’m trying to balance two growing businesses and a blog whilst attempting to finish my degree, have a semblance of a social life and make regular visits to the gym. Why? Who is telling me I have to do all of this stuff? Why do I feel so much pressure to have such a hectic life?

Top – ASOS, Jeans – New Look, Shoes – ASOS

Young woman in green top and black jeans poses in street
Young woman in green top and black jeans poses in street

It was counselling that showed me the answer – me. I am. I’m the source of all this pressure. I told myself that if I dropped out of university the first time around then I’d be letting everyone around me down. That was so far from the truth.

I am constantly telling myself that I need to prove myself and prove my worth. It’s my brain that tells me that people think I’m lazy, and it’s my brain that makes me believe the only logical resolution to this is to pile an obscene amount of pressure on myself to prove “them” wrong.

I hate this idea that we need to be busy to successful and I want to slap myself when someone asks me how things are and my response is “busy”. I hate being busy. Why is being busy idolised so much? I love everything I do, I love my course and I love my businesses and I love my blog – but why did I feel the need to do everything at once?

I’m trying to embrace a slower life with a bit less pressure but I’m not good at it. A lot of it probably stems from my anxiety, with a dose of good ol’ imposter syndrome just to jazz things up a bit too. I struggle to switch off and I often beat myself up for “wasting time” when I don’t have a day that I deem to be productive.

I’m forcing myself closer and closer to burnout because of this mythical concept that we have to have it all whilst we’re young. I want to enjoy being young. Yes, I want the house, but I also want the holidays and the lie-ins and the days spent lounging on the couch nursing a gin-induced hangover.

You always see those quotes floating around social media about how some of the world’s most famous people hadn’t even had their first break until they were considered “middle-aged”, yet society is consistently pushing a narrative that we are failures if we don’t buy property or have careers or children or plump savings accounts by a certain point in our lives.

I was sold the concept of leaving school after six years, going to university for four years then starting a graduate job straight away. Society told me, through my education, that anything else wasn’t good enough. In an attempt to chase this path I drove myself into the ground and put myself through so many miserable years instead of having the confidence to go my own way.

Young woman poses in street wearing green top and black jeans
Young woman smiles in street wearing green top and black jeans

Social media probably has a part to play as we’re constantly being exposed to everyone’s achievements, but I don’t think it’s really to blame. This is ingrained in us from an early age and social media just exacerbates the issue. We’re sharing these things because we feel like we need to prove that we’re meeting these expectations that are set for us.

This fictional timeline that’s been set out for my life only gives me an overwhelming sense of dread instead. Why should I have to live up to these standards? Why can’t I forge my own path? I guess I’m trying, and it feels a lot better now that I’ve realised that this “pressure” nearly all comes from within.

I’m still trying to reset my default way of thinking that if I’m not pushing myself I’m a failure. I’m trying to focus on what I’ve achieved so far instead of what I haven’t ticked off the list yet. I don’t think I’ll ever be good at balance, and I’ll most likely always be pushing myself a bit too far under the weight of my own expectations, but I’m trying to cut myself some slack.

At the end of the day, we’re all, for the most part, muddling through. We live in a pretty shitty world these days which gets increasingly more depressing to hear about with each passing day. We deserve to take all the time we need to make our decisions and be who we want to be.