In her latest book, Linda Papadopoulos lifts the lid on the lives of twenty-something women and examines the expectations heaped upon them. Whose Life is it Anyway? is packed with valuable insights and practical strategies for all twenty-somethings who want to live life on their own terms. Here’s small taster of some of Dr Linda’s top tips for surviving your twenties.
Being in your twenties will be in equal measure exhilarating and daunting, liberating and constraining, effortless and complicated. It is the period in your life when every headline and every tagline in ads, movies or songs, overt or implied, is telling you that you should be ‘having the time of your life’. And while I’m sure that sometimes it will feel that way, no doubt there will be others when you’ll feel overwhelmed, uncertain and maybe even a little scared about the future. And that’s the thing about this awesome decade in your life – that on the one hand, it’s about letting go, making mistakes and having fun, while on the other, it’s about . But don’t worry, these things are not incongruent; in fact, you need to let go and make mistakes if you are to stand any chance of knowing what you want out of life – or at least, what you don’t. So what are my top tips for this awesome decade?
- It may feel really important to you that the world perceives you and the decisions you make in the ‘right’ way; that’s probably why social networking is so prevalent in our psyches – because it allows us to quantify how well we are doing by providing us with up-to-the-minute assessments of what people ‘like’ about us. The thing is though, that editing your life so that it appears OK to others is a sure-fire way to feel unfulfilled and unhappy. Stop engaging with yourself in terms of how other people see you and focus on what really matters to you. Don’t seek validation through what others ‘like’ about your life – instead, figure out what you like by getting out, experiencing life and making genuine connections with people.
- Appealing as it is to make a checklist of everything that you need to get sorted by your thirtieth birthday, remember that sometimes things will happen that you don’t expect, and no matter how organised you are or how much planning you do, you will be blindsided by stuff that life throws at you. Because of this, adaptability, more than anything, is the trait that will get you not only through your twenties, but through life. By this I mean being able to react to what is actually happening, rather than trying to force-fit your life into some predetermined idea of what you think it ought to look like.
- Friends – real friends – and family are amazing resources, so develop and nurture these relationships. And while you may feel that only your peers can really understand you, believe me, the insights you will get from hanging out with people who are older than you and who see things from a different perspective are a vital part of making sense not only of your past, but also your future. People who have been here longer will challenge you to view things from a different angle, so make time for your favourite aunt or grandma; she may have a view on things that might surprise you.
- Your generation, I think more than any other, is plagued by the need to be perfect – and if this is your mission, let me spoil the suspense: you are not perfect; none of us is. You will make mistakes and you will feel like dropping out of things that you aren’t that good at. But the thing is, you can’t just drop out of life, so making peace with the idea that you can actually enjoy and learn from something without having to be the best at it is important. Allow yourself to make mistakes; believe me, the insight that you glean from getting things wrong is really valuable, and playing it safe by not taking chances is a far riskier strategy than just going for it, even if you aren’t certain of the outcome.
- Never take your health for granted at any age, so remember the basics: eat well, ditching the processed stuff and fad diets; sleep well – research shows that most of really do need seven to eight hours to function optimally; and stay fit – exercise is a great stress-buster, as well as being good for your physical health, so make it part of your self-care routine.
And one last thing – enjoy and savour this decade. Yes, there is a lot to get done, but remember: figuring out what you want to do with your life is, in most cases, an ongoing process; it’s not one eureka moment that hits you out of the blue. You will grow as a character and, as you do, you will learn and figure out what you want. Be open to experiences; live your life according to your values; follow your own path and be kind to others – and to yourself; and this is key: beware of negative, defeatist self-talk. You can’t control everything that happens to you in life, but, crucially, you can always control how you react to it. Life is a product of your decisions, and your ability to make good ones is ruled by your beliefs and the way that you think about yourself and the world around you.