3 Unhelpful statements - and why they're so unhelpful.
I'm not quite sure where the inspiration for this post came from but I think it was a conversation with some friends about some of the worst advice and 'truths' we have ever been given. Its natural (and very healthy!) to look to others for guidance but sometimes things need to be taken with a pinch of salt. So I thought about the top 3 statements I've heard thrown about a lot - that are actually kind of more anxiety provoking than helpful. Have a read and see if you agree..
1) ‘The best years of your life are when you’re young!’ Urgh – how many times have you heard this? I’ve heard it far too many times and it used to press so many panic buttons in my mind. My train of thought would rapidly turn into something a bit like this; ‘But I’m not exactly enjoying myself very much right now...is this as good as it gets!?!' are my best years really behind me already?!' I'd blindly continue on this wavelength of worry and end up feeling pretty down for no apparent real reason. On a personal level – the best years of my life have not directly correlated with a younger age and things have got much better as I have gotten older. For some of us, being young comes with a whole host of stressful add-ons we need to figure out how to deal with. Yes, there’s lots of great things; your metabolism, the freedom, not having to worry about things like council tax or house prices - and for some it will be the ‘best years of their life’ but for others, for a whole variety of reasons – it won’t be. So this is a phrase to ignore and the people using it are usually speaking only from their own experience. It can also inadvertently create pressure to be constantly having a great time and being ‘happy’ - which can end up unhealthy if you begin to feel something is wrong with you if you're not 'enjoying every minute.' Everyone’s life trajectory is different and no matter what age you are, there is always the possibility of more good moments ahead.
2) ‘You need to figure out what you want to do with your life.’ I’ll be honest, I may have actually said this to someone at some point (really sorry!) and I used to say it to myself far too often. ‘What do you want to do with yourself and your time?’ ‘well I don’t know..go on holiday a lot..?’ It’s such an enormous question and honestly – does anyone ever really know what they actually want to do with the next 40-50 years of life that they may or may not even get? I mean that’s a long time, and there are a lot of things that can change in that period – including you. Many of us may have a loose idea ; We may know what we’re interested in, know we want to make money, want to be a lawyer, want to have a family - but it’s unfair to expect yourself to have it all figured out completely; neatly written down in a year-by-year plan in a manila folder with a bow on top. Life is rarely even linear for even the most focused and organised of people.
I remember sitting on a chairlift with a friend at the end of my first ski season. We were talking about what we were going to do next and she said that her Grandma had given her some great advice; ‘If you’re not sure what to do next - follow the thing you are sure about at that point in your life’. My friend had met a guy, they were very in love and - at that point in her life - she was sure she wanted to be with him. This was the only thing she was sure about so her next move was to go and be with him and figure the rest out from there. I sat there in that conversation and thought about it - then I realised I wasn’t sure about my relationship or my overall career plans – but I had been offered a job in Italy and I was so sure that I definitely wanted to go and live in Italy (oh hell yes!)– so that’s what I did next. Try stuff and see what happens. Trying to figure out what you want to do with your whole life is too big a question for anyone. I’m a huge fan of Oprah (surprise!) and she puts it perfectly; ‘You just have to figure out what the next step is.’ That’s it – that’s all, you don’t have to know the whole story – just focus on the next page and your book will write itself.
3) ‘First impressions are everything.’ Ok, so without a doubt, first impressions can be very important and they help you build good relationships, start a job on the ‘right foot’ and things are just generally easier when you’ve made A Good First Impression. In the jobs I’ve worked in – I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and some of those people made amazing first impressions...only for me to find working with them not such a pleasure. A good first impression is just that – it sometimes bares no reflection on who a person will really turn out to be. So bare this in mind and remember it’s not the end of the world if you fluff up the first time – in job interviews, first dates, and general life. It can be full of having to make impressive first impressions which can all be so stressful. Give yourself a break, just relax and be yourself. Over the years I’ve developed a private resentment for people who like to make the scary statement above – you’re not doomed if it doesn’t go well on the first time, you’re just human. Think of Will Smiths character Chris Gardner in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’. Remember the scene when he gets arrested and ends up having to go to his internship interview in his painting clothes? It’s a terrible first impression and makes you really feel for him, but he doesn’t let it stop him giving it his best shot - and neither should you. First impressions are something – but not everything.
So theres my top 3! I could probably think of a few more..and I'll share them with you if I do. If any of these have come to worry you in the past, then I hope I've managed to obliterate any power they may have had in making you worry in future. :-)