Saturday, June 9, 2018

Why Are We So Unhappy in Our Twenties?

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I'm a hot mess right now: sweating out my in my feverish state, my sickness probably culminated from an unfortunate change in weather and the stress from a deadline yesterday. Last week I posted on Instagram that I was reading a fantastic long read about the psychology of happiness and it made me realise that so many of us in our twenties (or beyond), while probably more successful than we think, are so vastly unhappy with our lives. 

Of course, it doesn't help that the curated online lives are so often a jarring fantasy in reprimanding us that what we've achieved is never enough. The fact that we're so hard-pressed on anchoring (another fantastic concept but a great book called Nudge) our happiness to another person makes us lose sense of intrinsic joy – money plays a huge factor sure, but apparently "once our basic needs are met, the relationship between money and happiness becomes purely theoretical". 

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Time versus money

I found this quite hard to digest, because who doesn't want the access associated with greater purchasing power?

Then it occured to me that my daily anxiety of never being a good enough person largely stems from the fact that I "never have enough time" to do what I want.

Scenarios:

"If I had more time, I could paint, relax, unwind"
"If I wasn't so busy with dealing with work all the time, I would be out on the rooftop having a drink"
"If I was rich, I wouldn't have to do all these chores myself"

And so it feels like many of my problems with feeling joy depended on how valuable I considered my time to be. Clearly we all hate wasting time doing things that are unnecessarily bureaucratic:  paperwork, admin, waiting for buses that never come...

We feel like we could be doing so much more whilst enduring the initial useless act that needs to be done first. Everything and all of it seems like a big waste of time.

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The problem with Time and being busy all the time

We're so obsessed with Time. 

Or at least I am. I used to set a timer for individual tasks I had to do and get weirdly panicky when I didn't get as far as I wanted to and it would end up in a vicious cycle of bitterly regretting not doing enough... 

Then there's the cultural perceptions of what being busy means. I work with a lot of US colleagues, and they equate time to being busy and productive. Any time spent not doing work means missed opportunities and dare I say, laziness?! And it doesn't stop, because being young also means you're not supposed to not be busy, and always be creative and on the ball all the damn time.

I was listening to a podcast where they interviewed a hugely successful 28-year-old CEO; I'm 27 and I like flowers.... How would you feel? To which I then spent about 20 minutes feeling inadequate and thinking I was wasting my youth not being some sort of magical feminist woman-boss in my twenties. 


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Creating a form of Happiness 

Was it my own fault I was feeling inadequate and not making my first million? Probably. 

Looking back, I was probably focusing on what I couldn't have that I became so unhappy most of my early twenties, and not on what I did have. Sure I'm not a genius entrepreneur (though that does make me sad), but I am great at being creative, being weird and fortunate enough to be where I am right now. 

I used to wallow in guilt a lot, and when that started to affect my health greatly, I realised it wasn't going to work out. Everyone tells me 'think of the positive!' and I refused - because I refused to believe that ~positive juju~ could change anything. 

I laugh at how naïve I was then, because it works. It didn't change my entire life, but creating a form of happiness that doesn't rely on anger or bitterness made me realise how light and freeing it could be, without the terrible burden that feels incredibly tiring.  

I'd never realise it was actually a simple act of realising that making a version of your own happiness doesn't mean erasing your worries, or anxieties, it just meant (for me) picturing them in ways I could face them without feeling terrified. 

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(Dress - Vero Moda 
Necklaces - Pandora Shine and Missoma)

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Do you think we're unhappy? And why?

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