By Mia Casey
Growing up, we were always told that ‘we could be anything’. Unfortunately, as we got older this adage slowly began to translate to ‘we should be everything’, creating a pressure to not only know what we want to do, but also be versatile enough to fit into whatever industry we decided our ‘dream job’ was in. And while the intended meaning behind these ideas are all positive, something’s making me think that this level of pressure isn’t exactly good for us.
Sharp rise in levels of anxiety
In a recent article by the Daily Telegraph, they noted that ‘half of people aged 25-33 feel anxious when comparing themselves to more successful friends’. Guys, that’s a pretty huge percentile.
They also noted an unprecedented rise in anxiety centered on careers, young people taking breaks from their work by age 25, and a rise in the number of times we are changing jobs once we’re in our twenties. Basically, everyone’s freaking out because this social messaging of we can ‘do anything’ and we need to find our ‘dream job’ ASAP or else we’re complete failures, is becoming more widespread.
This links back to the idea of career FOMO that we’ve talked about in the past:
Career FOMO is the anxiety that comes from seeing people around you succeeding in their careers, when you’re at a point in your own career where you’re feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled. It’s the fear that you’re not doing enough, are in the wrong field, or are being left behind as everyone else forges on ahead, living their dreams.
Social media has made it normal for us to see images of our friends, acquaintances, second-cousin-on-your-mum’s-stepbrother’s-side-of-the-family, and favourite celebrities all living their best lives and being successful. Basically, all the worst things to see on a daily basis when you’re feeling less than spectacular about your own life.
Add to that the targeted advertisements that will spring up on your feed, bombarding you with messages – and job ads – for how to be a better person, and you’re likely going to end up feeling pretty disgruntled. Unfortunately that feeling is usually translated to self-loathing and anxiety, rather than us turning to recognise the external factors feeding this anxiety.
Social media creating unrealistic expectations
When it comes to your career, being online can feel like an unsafe space if you’re having a rough time and actively looking for some escapism. It means you have to fight with images telling you that you could (and should) be sitting in a beautifully curated office sipping a coffee and throwing your head back to laugh at a joke your colleague made, while working in a role that’s been your dream job since you were 12 – all the while juggling an active social life, traveling to new places, and (potentially) a family. It’s no wonder that 37% of young Sydneysiders have ‘already changed their career entirely by the age of just 25’ (x) – I mean, what could live up to that alternate reality?
Now I’m not saying you should throw your smart phone in the nearest body of water, gift your laptop to your friend’s little sister, and go live on a commune in Byron Bay (although that does sound like a kind of sweet gig, now that I think about it). But with studies coming out showing such a sharp rise in career-related anxiety, something’s got to give.
Toughing it out vs tapping out
While there are some people who are absolutely dead-set on a career path, not everyone has to be. Your first job or two may not be what you dreamed of when you first started out, but more often than not your ‘dream job’ is going to take some time to work up to. Like in a video game, most people have to spend some time grinding and powering up before they get to the stage where they can take on the big boss (or in this case, become the big boss).
Because we’ve been told over and over that we can be anything, to follow your passion and only do what you love, when things get tough and don’t live up to what we’ve been dreaming of it feels like we’ve failed. And guess what guys – you haven’t.
If things are tough but you’re on a path that you’re overall pretty passionate about and interested in, then it’s time to build up those resilience skills and push through. But if your work environment is actually causing you distress and unhappiness and you’re questioning why you even got into this industry to begin with, then it’s alright to feel this way – YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE FOR BEING UNHAPPY – and it may be time to start testing out your options.
Your career isn’t set in stone
Like life, your career isn’t set in stone and taking that pressure away to simply pursue what actually makes you happy, regardless of what the people around you are doing, can be a great idea. Trying to stick with something that’s disrupting your mental health or trying to live up to an idyllic view of what a career should be is not only unhealthy, but it’s unrealistic. Enough with the #goals – let’s get back to being #happy.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.