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May 3, 2024 55 mins

We have a lot of opportunities to feel behind in our 20s, especially when it comes to our careers, our finances and our relationships. In todays episode we break down why so many of us (roughly 80% of 20 something year olds) feeling like we're falling short of expectations, as well as how we can manage these feelings and enjoy our path through life without comparing it to someone others. We discuss:

  • The competitiveness of this generation
  • The wunderkind phenomena 
  • Career anxiety and starting over 
  • Relationship and dating inexperience 
  • The pandemic skip 
  • How to feel more sure of your own path and progress 

AND, we hear from you, the listeners, about your experiences. Listen now! 

Follow Jemma on Instagram: @jemmasbeg

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:04):
Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Psychology of Your Twenties,
the podcast where we talk through some of the big
life changes and transitions of our twenties and what they
mean for our psychology. Hello everybody, Welcome back to the show.

(00:24):
Welcome back to the podcast. New listeners, old listeners. Where
we are in the world. It is so great to
have you here. Back for another episode as we of
course break down the psychology of our twenties. Okay, have
you ever had that feeling, that sensation, that panic that
everybody is further ahead in their lives than you are.

(00:46):
They are more successful, they are more sure of themselves,
they are further along when it comes to their relationships,
their finances, knowing what they want to do with their lives.
This feeling of being behind is a really common one
during this decade, during our twenties. It is the norm,

(01:06):
not the exception. But I think despite that, it's also
incredibly stressful and at times stabilitating when we a don't
have open conversations about it, there isn't an acknowledgment of
how many of us are feeling stuck in our lives,
and b we constantly compare ourselves to the people who

(01:27):
do have it all, feeling like everyone else is finding
this whole life thing very easy whilst we're struggling. So
I want to talk about it today. I want to
talk about why it is that we find ourselves in
this constant spiral, this constant self doubt kind of cycle,
no matter how much we do have, how much we

(01:47):
have achieved. I think, despite knowing that life is a
journey not a race, we still feel behind. But I
think the real question is, like behind what? What is
this invisible standard that we are all falling short of?
What exactly are we comparing ourselves to? And why does
the success of other people and the accomplishments of other

(02:08):
people sit so heavy on our minds and diminish our
own sense of agency and our own progress. Well, that's
really like the core of this discussion. This is such
a common phenomena, feeling behind in your twenties, and it's
kind of ironic because if it is so common, how
come we all experience it? Who are these people who

(02:31):
are not feeling behind? Why is it that they are
seen as what is normal? Why is it the people
who are ticking everything off their bucket list, achieving all
the necessary milestones why are they the standard? I also
want to share some of your experiences the listeners. A
lot of you have kindly written in to me on

(02:54):
Instagram and said that you feel similar and have kind
of articulated why you're strongruggling. We have stories of being
thirty and single, never having been in a relationship, another
person who started their career again in their late twenties.
People struggling with debt and decision making and job choices

(03:15):
and not feeling like you can see a way forward.
And of course we're going to discuss why we feel
that way, the psychology behind it, and what we can
do about it. How we can kind of just you know,
to be frank, stop feeling so shit about our own
lives and our own progress. How can we stop viewing
our twenties as a race or a competition to get

(03:37):
to this like imaginary finish line, and just enjoy the
personal journey, enjoy the scenic route, enjoy what we want
to get out of this decade. So there is obviously
a lot to discuss alongside your very generous and vulnerable
personal anecdotes. And my hope is that if you get

(03:58):
one thing out of this episode today, it is that
absolutely everybody is feeling behind, or feeling lost, or feeling
stuck in some capacity. Even the people that you look
to and compare yourself to who seem so much further
ahead than us, they genuinely are feeling this as well.
Because I think that it isn't about what you do have,

(04:21):
it isn't about what you have achieved. It's about our
mindset and our mindset towards competition, towards success, towards uncertainty.
So we have a lot to discuss. I'm going to
stop rambling without further ado. Let's get into feeling behind
in our twenties. We have a lot of opportunities to

(04:48):
feel behind in our twenties, because we have a lot
of opportunities not just for social comparison, but also for
self doubt. I think for the first two decades of
our lives, the first eighteen years at least, all of
us are very much in step with each other. You know,
we're kind of all existing on an identical path. Everybody

(05:09):
who is our own age is doing the same things.
We're going to school, We're trying to hit the same
milestones of graduating. We're at the same classes, we have
the same life problems. We are all working towards a
common goal. Everything feels very much in line. There is
limited opportunities for comparison when it comes to life progress.

(05:31):
You know, you might be comparing yourself based on like looks,
or who's had their first kiss, or you know, silly
things like that, but in terms of like where you're
at in your life and the progress that you're making
towards your goals, if you even have any when you're
that young, that is all kind of very very similar.
And then we enter our twenties and suddenly it all splinters.

(05:55):
Our life paths become very very different, very unique, and
that only is exacerbated the further along we get into
our twenties and into this decade, we're kind of no
longer bustling alongside each other through mandatory schooling. We suddenly
have freedom to choose and choose differently. And there are

(06:17):
a lot of nuances in this. You know, one person
wants to take a gap year. One person continues to
work their high school job or their unique job to
save up. Another person speeds through their like four year
degree in three years and is like doing their masters
by twenty three. Somebody is going straight into a high
paying job after college. Somebody is having children, right. It's
like everybody is suddenly living in a different timeline compared

(06:41):
to the common timeline that we used to have. And
I think that it's at that point when everything splinters
that it feels like a race suddenly begins.

Speaker 2 (06:52):
You know. It feels like we didn't realize we were
at the starting line. We didn't realize that suddenly it
was going to be a competition. But implicitly it that way.
It's kind of like the race to become real adults.
And in many ways, I think speaking to my friends,
it feels like it's this race to enter our thirties
or even like our mid thirties with a partner, with

(07:15):
a successful and fulfilling career, with a really cushy savings account,
with a bunch of friends, and also with enough fun
experiences to kind of prove that although we got here,
we still enjoyed ourselves and enjoyed our lives along the way,
and we become a lot more aware of the people
who are doing those things and the people who are not,

(07:38):
which might be us, the people who are falling short.
I think the core reason we feel behind is obviously
social comparison. Without the visibility of others and their life paths,
we wouldn't have any reason to think that what we're
doing is wrong. We wouldn't have anybody to be behind,

(07:58):
because we would only be thinking about ourselves. We would
only be conscious of our own progress and what felt
good for us. But of course we know that comparison
is a very human disease. It's not even a disease,
human syndrome, a human trait, and sometimes it's just not
possible to not have that kind of going on in
the back of your mind as such a social tribal species.

(08:22):
What's really fascinating to me, if not ironic, is when
I asked all of you people, my beautiful listeners, whether
you feel behind as someone in your twenties, eighty percent
of you out of almost five thousand votes, probably more
because I checked that only after we'd been up for like,
I don't know, fourteen hours, but eighty percent of you

(08:44):
at five thousand votes, so with significant sample size there
said yes, you are feeling behind. There is something in
your life that you're not satisfied with, that you feel
you should be further ahead or further along in regards
to that's compared to twenty percent of you, who I
assume feel really comfortable with where you're at. Maybe you're secure,

(09:06):
you're working on yourself, setting your own pace. You could
also just be doing exceptionally well, which congratulations. But what
I find fascinating about this is that feeling lost, feeling stuck,
feeling unaccomplished, feeling behind is the norm. It is not
only the norm, it is the majority. It is the
huge majority, eighty percent, you know. And I just think

(09:28):
that it comes down to a lot of reasons. But
because this generation is so much more competitive but also
yet again available for comparison right particularly through social media
and LinkedIn and publicly available information, it's very easy to
focus on everybody who has more than you, and not
the people who are just like you, The people who

(09:50):
are doing really really well for themselves. That twenty percent,
maybe even that ten percent, that five percent, they stand out,
and so our attention immediately goes to them. Compared to
the people who are doing life just like us in
the same lane. That's not an interesting story. That's not
going to capture our attention because we already know that narrative,

(10:13):
We already know what that life looks like compared to
the life of somebody that we want. We also can't
ignore this implicit blueprint that society sets for our life,
that even if we don't believe in, we are still
influenced by. So when we think about like society's blueprint
for us, there is kind of this unspoken timeline of events.

(10:37):
You graduate, maybe you go on and get your degree
or some qualification. You find your dream career, you get
your job in that field, you make enough money to
live independently, You find the love of your life, you
get promoted, you buy a house, you get married, you
have children, retirement, death. That's it. That's what the blueprint
tells us. And it's a very restrictive idea of what

(11:00):
constitutes a happy life. And it's also a very incomplete
narrative and incomplete blueprint because it doesn't include the stories
of people who you know, completely uproot their lives at
thirty or fifty, the people who never get married or
who never have kids, the people who take a few
years off between graduation and full time work to explore,

(11:24):
the people who never find their dream job. The people
who you know, these kind of milestones just aren't going
to happen in the same way for them. They are
those stories, the ones that I've just kind of given
a few examples of. They're not the ones we hear about,
and so we don't think of them or include them
in our own interpretation of how our lives should be going,

(11:48):
how our lives should be progressing. When it comes to
feeling behind, I believe that there are three major areas
where we experience this the most. That is our careers,
our relationships, and our finances. Not only are these three
of the most formative elements of our twenties, the things
that I think we spend a lot of time worrying about,

(12:10):
but in some ways they're also quite visible. Right. We
don't feel behind in terms of our health, we don't
feel behind in terms of aging. We don't feel behind
in terms of our personal development. We feel behind based
on things that we think that other people can see.
So I think let's start with the biggest one that

(12:32):
I heard from you all, which is career goals. I
think this is the most common of the three because
it feels like something that we really need to grow,
and so the time we spend on it and the
results feel like an an investment they feel very precious,
Like when it comes to relationships, you could meet like
the love of your life tomorrow and complete that part

(12:53):
of your story, but your career takes a little bit
longer to establish and it feels very intentional. So we
put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it
right the first time around, to get it right straight
out the grate, because we don't want to spend like
five years doing something that we think we love or
we think will be fulfilling, and then you know, we

(13:14):
hit thirty and it's like a waste of our time.
That's how we interpret it. We have to start again.
You know. We want to feel like we're doing things productively.
We want to feel like we're making a contribution to
our future. And so I think that fear of not
getting it right the first time, that fear of not knowing,
of uncertainty, it really keeps us in places in industries,

(13:38):
in careers, in fields, in jobs that we don't full
in love because we don't want to sacrifice the security
of experience and have to start again. We also don't
want to feel like a failure, right. We don't want
people to, you know, catch up with us and ask
us how's work going, and be like, yeah, it's all right,

(13:58):
it's fine if we should be doing more, as if
we're wasting our time or wasting our lives doing something
that we don't fully love and not even doing it
at a high level compared to other people. So I
asked you guys about this, and I wanted to hear
about your experience. Why do you feel behind in your career?
And here's what some of you had to say. This

(14:20):
one I absolutely love. I'm coming up on one year
post UNI this May, and I feel some sadness about
it because I thought that i'd be further along by now,
and the one year markt is just another reminder that
I'm not after postcride. It took me a while to
find a job that is so common, trust me. But
when I did, it sounded great on paper, working in

(14:42):
a professional newsroom at the number one channel in the
third biggest city in the US. Wow. Impressive. After a
few months of giving it a shot, I made the
decision to leave because my intuition was telling me I
had to go and I don't regret it. And then
my dad felt sick better. Now, Oh, thank godness, that's
it's good. To hear. Fast forward to now, I feel

(15:03):
like I'm back to square one of the job search process,
and I'm debating if I should go back to school
and pursue an entirely different field outside of media. I
feel shame about it, even though I think it is
very normal to go through at this age. Thank you
so much for sharing. I feel like a lot of
people can relate to that. I'm also really glad that
your dad is doing better. That's really good news. I

(15:26):
want to pick up on one thing that this person said,
and it was around the feeling of shame. I think
that shame element, that shame factor, is something that we
really need to focus on, because starting again or acknowledging
that we aren't necessarily where we want to be or
imagine that we would be, makes us feel in some
way like we have failed, that we weren't up for it,

(15:48):
that we weren't capable, that we made a huge mistake.
And shame has a lot of psychological origins, but one
of the biggest ones is feeling like we have not
lived up to the highest standards that we have seen
at ourselves or our expectations, and therefore we kind of
deserve to feel bad. We deserve some kind of negative
emotional consequence as kind of like a retribution for failing ourselves.

(16:14):
It's also really frequently linked in academic research to a
sense of inadequacy, which if you are a long time listener,
you know is also related to being an overachiever, being
a perfectionist, or being somebody who is quite anxious. Shame
is a really common experience for the people that I've
spoken to who, for example, have maybe taken a little

(16:36):
bit longer to finish university, who have made a career change,
who have had to spend a lot more time in
those junior roles all over again. The other big group
of people who experience this are those of us who
have been fired or laid off, because we don't typically
think about those situations when we're planning our dream life, right.

(16:58):
I've had a few friends who have gone through this
recently and it's really, really shitty. It's a really frustrating situation.
And I think it's because in those situations, even though
it's out of our control, we become very acutely aware
of how our expectation for the future and where we
would be at now and our reality is not lining

(17:20):
up and on some more social level, we focus on
what we believe other people might assume about us because
of that experience, because of being laid off, but also
how everybody else is continuing to save up money, is
continuing to progress, is continue to have those years of
experience on their resume, and our efforts are doing that

(17:42):
have been cut short. I think it's really important to
remember that your career, whilst it is important, is not
the sole basis of your identity or your worth. There
is so much beyond what you do for a job
that makes you interesting and makes you accomplished and makes
you a good person. Just because it's taking a little

(18:03):
bit longer for you to be where you would like
to be doesn't mean that you're not picking up valuable
things along the way. Okay, let's hear from somebody else
who I think really really demonstrates this point. I went
to UNI at twenty five, and people were so supportive.
I'd never done higher education. I became a hairdresser at
sixteen and went traveling for a couple of years, so

(18:24):
this was huge for me. However, since finishing UNI, I've
stepped back into hospitality full time, and I feel like
I should be doing more knowing my direction, have more
to show for it. Don't get me wrong, I love
my job and I progressed position wise. I've also recently
lost my savings due to a Savage House situation. I
just see everyone at twenty seven having so much more financially, materialistically,

(18:48):
relationship wise, and knowing their direction in life. Maybe this
is a perception and also massively from social media's perspective.
I've also been single for nine years now, so in
all departments feeling behind. See. I think this is also
the hard thing, which is congratulations, Like you went to UNI,
you went and got like further education. Everyone says that

(19:11):
that is like the easiest way to advance and move
forward in your career and in your life. But a
lot of us are not finding that right. Like a
lot of us have degrees that we don't use, and
debt that kind of just weighs very heavily on our
mind and restricts the other opportunities that we could have
in our life that we could unlock if we didn't
have to worry about paying back alone or whatnot. Here's

(19:35):
another perspective on this that I really liked. I have
everything that I've ever wanted in my life right now.
I have a college degree, wonderful partner, I live in
a big city, wonderful friends, fulfilling job, et cetera. But
I constantly feel like I'm behind or setting myself up
for failure with my finances. I have thirty K in

(19:55):
student loan debt in the United States, stagnant six k
in credit card debt, and I'm renting an apartment. When
I talk with friends who don't have these situations with
their finances, I see that they're able to save for
a house, go on fun, exotic trips, buy new cars, etc.
I know I shouldn't compare, but it's so hard not
to when these are people that I surround myself with.

(20:17):
They're my community and I love them so deeply, but
I feel like I can't be transparent with how behind
I feel from them. Honestly, money is a huge thing,
separate to Korea. You could have your absolute dream job,
which by the sounds of it, this person does. They
love what they're doing, and still be struggling financially and

(20:41):
feeling behind because of it. I think that the older
you get, the more you realize that as unfortunate as
it is, money kind of does make the world go
around these days, and it's really hard to ignore that fact.
When you see people who do have more seemingly enjoying
their experiences and accumulating possessions and accumulating memories at a

(21:02):
faster rate than we are, and not having to make
the sacrifices that we do, it can leave us with
a sense that we will always be behind. We didn't
get kind of like the early start that they did
to save, to invest to set ourselves up for long
term financial independence, We're never going to have it as

(21:23):
good as these other people did. It really manifests in
I think some significant financial anxiety, and I also think
financial cynicism, where we kind of think, like, why am
I even trying? Why am I even bothering to save
when these people already got a head start. When will
I ever be able to afford the life I want?

(21:45):
And if I can't afford the life I want, why
not just enjoy the moment now and spend willy nilly
and spend money frivolously Because it's not like I can
use this for a house. It's not like I can
use this for a down payment for anything that's going
to bring me like long term stability because the economy
hasn't been set up for Maybe the economy hasn't been

(22:07):
set up for, you know, younger people who are trying
to assert themselves in trying to find stability and trying
to buy a home, or trying to at least have
the capacity to pay their bills. Beyond just fulfilling our
most basic needs, I also want to talk about that
feeling that if we are behind in finances, if we

(22:28):
are behind in savings, we are behind in our capacity,
our future capacity to enjoy our lives. I don't think
that this fear is about what somebody else has. It's
not about what they have that we don't. It's about
an even deeper and sometimes unconscious worry that because we
don't are not achieving that kind of level of financial

(22:50):
independence or savings or whatever, we are destined to lead
an unfulfilling life. If we acknowledge that money is a
really pertinent important resource for unlocking a certain lifestyle, it
is this fear that if we don't have that money,
we are going to have to live with regret of
the opportunities of the travel plans, of the material possessions

(23:15):
that we couldn't afford, and that that regret is going
to become more pronounced by seeing the people who do
have it better, who were able to buy those things.
Money unlocks opportunities, and it unlocks a life that we want.
I'm not going to go into a lecture around like
money doesn't buy you happiness, like you can be the
richest person in the world and still never have enough,

(23:35):
because I just think that's not helpful. But I will
say that in our twenties, we tend to think that
the money we are making now is the money that
we will be making forever. We don't often consider things
like bonuses, promotions, changing jobs, sudden windfalls. So yes, it's
important to be conscious of your finances and what you

(23:58):
can spend, but you do never really know when things
will change for you. Okay, I think that we are
going to take a short break because the moment I
start giving financial advice is the moment that I need
to get back into my own lane. So we are
going to pause for a second, and when we come back,
we're going to discuss especially specifically, particularly why we feel

(24:19):
behind in our relationships, and then also what we can
do about this experience. So stay with us. We'll be
back in just a second. We put a pretty significant
premium on romantic love in our twenties. I think it

(24:39):
is one of our biggest sources of stress, of anxiety,
a very huge focus of our everyday thoughts, because it's
very hard to feel complete in a society that prioritizes
the idea of love and relationships and happily ever after
above everything else. Our society harbors a lot of single stigma.

(25:03):
But not everyone is going to find their person in
their twenties, or their thirties or even their forties. For
some people, it really does take their whole lives, and
it doesn't mean that you are behind. Like without love,
your life is empty. Without a partner, everything is glass
half full. I don't think that we should buy into

(25:24):
this misconception as well, that a relationship is something that
we need to tick off our to do list. It's
not a goal, it's not a milestone. It's something that
we naturally fall into and if it works, that's amazing,
that is such great news. But if it doesn't, that's
all right. There is a whole portion of society who
has found deep joy and fulfillment without a partner and

(25:48):
who you know experience insane transformative growth at the end
of a relationship that completely pushes them into a new
chapter in their life. I also think that the fear
of being alone and therefore behind other people in our
lives who have these serious, long term relationships, who are
getting engaged, who are getting married having children. Sometimes that

(26:11):
fear of not being where these people are at and
falling quote unquote behind them keeps us in relationships with
the people who aren't right for you, because at least
you meet society's requirement for your twenties, for partnership, for
finding love. It's a really hard feeling to not have that,
and it's possibly an even worse feeling to never have

(26:34):
experienced love or really know what all the hype is about,
to not have even had your first kiss, your first girlfriend,
your first boyfriend, your first partner. So this was an
amazing DM I received on this very kind of feeling
that I had to share. I personally feel most behind
in the area of romantic relationships. I'm twenty nine and

(26:55):
I've never been in a relationship, not even close. Everyone
has assured me that there's no timeline. It will happen
when you're not looking slash least expect it, which I
think is easy for them to say from the comforts
of their relationships and marriages. I've worked hard throughout my
twenties to grow in my self love and self worth.
That's amazing. We love to hear it and to not

(27:17):
let the feeling of being so behind affect me as
much as it used to. But i'd be lying to
say it wasn't still hard. Some days it feels like
it will never happen, and if it does, I worry
I won't be able to enjoy a new slash first
relationship the same way that others have because of this impending,
rushed feeling, especially when it comes to deciding if I

(27:39):
would want kids or not. That is really really rough.
And I think that comment about people saying things which
they think are helping when they aren't is so spot on. Honestly,
it's a big reminder to those of us who are
in relationships that we think our words are comforting, but
we don't remember how rough it is being single in

(27:59):
our twenties, or even in our thirties, or being single
at all. Sometimes. I also think that the reason it
can be especially difficult being single the lady, you get
into this decade is because the achievements and milestones of
a single person aren't as celebrated as those in a relationship.
Think about what the biggest celebration in adulthood kind of is,

(28:22):
Like it's a wedding, right, But if you never get married,
if you never have children, or an anniversary or a
significant other who celebrates you, who makes your important moments
feel extra special, Especially when everybody else begins to partner
off and they have their like one person, it can

(28:44):
kind of feel like you're on the sidelines. It can
feel like everything you do is secondary to the praise
and the love and the excitement that you see people
getting from their relationship. The other thing that this person
spoke about that I think we don't speak about nearly
enough in this context is the pressure of wanting to

(29:06):
have children but feeling like you need to have a
partner before you can do that, Especially for women, I
feel like the older that I've gotten, the more conversations
I've been having about fertility, about my biological clock, about
things like egg freezing, and it's kind of like, is
that future that I want for myself having children? Is

(29:27):
that going to be possible if I don't first achieve
like the relationship status that would afford that, because that's
how society has told me it needs to be done.
So quite a few of you actually did message in
about this experience. I'm gonna use one more example. I'm
going to take one more DM that I really really liked.

(29:48):
I found quite articulate about this sense of being the
last one in the friendship group to be single. When
I redownload the dating apps, it feels like I am
bait not only to the worsening dating system, but as
a some of my friends who are in relationships to
comment on how I live vicariously through you or I'm
so glad I'm not on the apps. I am just

(30:08):
like my friends though I'm a lover girl, just without
the relationship, and I'm optimistic that I will find somebody.
My twenties feel behind without somebody. As a single person,
I pay more to live. I feel lost and forgotten about.
When it comes to social activities, I'm not considered to
be invited by my friends. I've lost friends who once
were very happy to leave me to sit alone in

(30:30):
a club whilst they all went away with their boyfriends. Yikes.
Those are bad friends. Trust me, you didn't lose anybody
worth having. But I think that really highlights some other
really critical points. Right, It's not just about love, It's
not just about finding somebody in connection. It kind of
relates to everything else in our lives, like finances, paying

(30:50):
more to live as a single person, like our friendships,
feeling like as all of our friends find people, you're
kind of excluded from the couple kind of relationship that
people now have. So that is one experience when it
comes to feeling behind in our relationships, the experience of
inexperience and feeling like there is just such a huge
part of your life that is missing that you may

(31:12):
never experience. You never know what people kind of write
the songs about why they say love is a drug.
You just never get to feel cared for in the
way that you've kind of always wanted. It's more than
a longing. I think it becomes an insecurity that something
must be wrong with you because everyone else has been
able to have this experience, has found at least to

(31:32):
somebody who wanted to date them, and you haven't. Trust me,
it just hasn't happened yet, That's all. And that really
really sucks, And I'm really sorry that you feel like
you're missing out, because I can understand exactly where you're
coming from. But I'm not going to give you some
bullshit reminder of like, don't worry, like it happens when
you least expect it. What I am going to say

(31:54):
is that when it does happen, because it will happen,
it's going to feel amazing. It's going to feel great
than all of your expectations. And I think that the
moment that it does happen, you'll look back at where
you are now and be like, what was I worried about?
Why was I so stressed? You know, one of my
best friends is twenty eight and she's never been in
a relationship before, and I look at her and I

(32:14):
honestly cannot comprehend why, because she is absolutely perfect. But
sometimes it just goes that way. You just haven't crossed
paths with the right person yet. You've you know, you've
been selective, you've held back. That's a good thing. You've
been picky. But you will never be the last one standing.
I promise. There's always going to be somebody else in
the same boat who is navigating the same loneliness, the

(32:37):
same insecurity, the same anticipation as you are. So the
other group of people who I think struggle with feeling
behind in their romantic relationships during the twenties is those
of us who spent a big part of this decade
or our early twenties with a single person who we
kind of thought was the one we'd never have to

(32:58):
be single again, and then on a expectedly things go
south and you break up. This was one person's experience,
and I really liked how they put it. I feel
fine in other aspects of life except my relationship. In August,
I ended a very long term relationship with somebody that
I lived with for nearly three years due to very

(33:19):
valid reasons. I feel so behind because I want to
be married and have children so badly. I'm twenty six
now and I work as a mother, sush child nurse.
My gosh, we love an educated woman, so I see
newborns and families all the time, whilst I try and
have grace and faith just reiterates how badly I want
it and how behind I feel. Now. I'm so so sorry.

(33:42):
I just cannot imagine how both like joyful and simultaneously
difficult that would be to be like, Wow, like this
is such an incredible experience for this new family and
this like new soul that's in the world, But it
brings me so much pain because that is exactly what
I wanted. I think that's a huge contributor to feeling behind,

(34:03):
is feeling like you've done everything right, that you've got
the relationship, you've got the job, you're doing great with
your savings, with your personal development, with everything else you
want in life, and then something kind of just like
comes out of left field and knocks that all down,
and all of your planning, all your cautious efforts, all
the work that you've put into this relationship, that you've

(34:25):
put into creating this life that you wanted for yourself
is undone, and you kind of have to find a
way to move forward with the reality that you didn't expect.
That's a huge thing that happens during this decade when
you know, unfortunately long term relationships do end. The person
that you think you were going to marry turns out

(34:45):
to just be somebody who was a secondary character, somebody
who was just there to further the story along to
teach you a lesson. So I have a lot of
love for this person, and I have a lot of
love for the other people who are going through this,
who are not only experiencing heartbreak and grief, but also
a new reality that their life might not be as

(35:06):
like all together as they wanted it to be. There
may be things that are now delayed and suddenly you're
feeling behind again. You're feeling like you're back at the
starting line when it comes to finding connection, finding a relationship,
finding someone to kind of grow with you by your side.
So we've spoken about the three core reasons that people

(35:27):
feel behind in their twenties, career finances, love. I want
to now go through a quick rundown of some of
the reasons this happens that we haven't mentioned. I know
we've kind of spoken about some of the contributing factors before,
but there are some other psychological components to feeling behind
that I think we deserve to mention, and you guys have,

(35:49):
of course shed even more of your experiences when it
comes to this. So, first off the bat, we have
external pressure. We know that it comes from a place
of love. But when everyone in our life life is
asking us about what we want to do, what's our
dream job? What are our plans for the future, how's
our dating life going? Have we met anyone like nice recently?

(36:09):
That sense of expectation really begins to pile up. We
suddenly feel like we're not just living our life and
our twenties for ourselves, but for others, and we need
to meet some kind of like standard to not just
make them happy, but to kind of get them to
shut up and to kind of get them to feel
like we're doing all right and we're doing what they expect.

(36:30):
I also find that what's next mentality quite difficult because
as a society, we're very focused on momentum, and we're
very focused on progress and success, and because of that,
we never stop pause and focus on what we have now.
It's kind of like an example I always give is

(36:51):
you graduate after studying for years and years and years,
and immediately people are asking you how the job hunt
is going. Immediately people like, so, what's next? What are
you going to do with your life? When's the full
time work start? And if you're like, oh, norah, I
haven't quite found something yet. Oh okay, well let me
know when you do, let me know if you need help, like, oh,
you should really get looking because it takes a while,

(37:13):
Like it's not helpful. You know, you break up with
your partner of three years, like that person we spoke
about before, and people are suddenly worried about when you're
going to get back in the dating game. You know,
the clock is ticking. That's the big one. When we
are so focused on what's next, and we're so focused
on pushing the needle forward, pushing our life forward, we

(37:35):
never really have time to just process where we're at
and to enjoy what we're experiencing and what we're learning,
and enjoy like the youth, enjoy who we are right now.
We're never going to get that person back again. One
final factor that I want to note that we actually
haven't spoken about yet, which is surprising because of how

(37:56):
ubiquitous and universal it is, is what people have been
like as the pandemic skip this idea that for those
of us who spent a lot of our early twenties
in a lockdown in quarantine dealing with the COVID pandemic,
we were unable to travel. We missed out on some
of those big formative events like a graduation, like having

(38:17):
our first jobs in person, like the opportunity to go
out and meet new people, to move cities. We lost
a lot of time and experiences during our formative years,
and so yes, you might be twenty five, you might
be twenty four to twenty seven, whatever, but really you're
like twenty two or twenty three because of that time

(38:40):
that you lost. Whilst you think that you should have
it all together like a typical twenty five year old
should have or a twenty seven year old, really you're
not accounting for that whole chapter where your future was
delayed beyond your control, and so it was kind of
like time froze. You weren't really experiencing the world the

(39:00):
way that twenty something year olds ten years ago or
ten years before that would have experienced it. So you
can't beat yourself up for some of the things that
you just didn't have the opportunity to go out and
see during that really special formative time in our early twenties,
when we do have a lot of freedom, when there
is so much more capacity and openness to growth and experience.

(39:24):
So yes, like I said, take a few years off
your age, treat yourself like you are the real twenty
three year old or twenty year old that you actually are.
And give yourself a little bit of a break. So
someone wrote in about this, and I really love their perspective.
I'm in my late twenties and I've realized recently that
part of my feeling behind is due to COVID. I

(39:44):
had just turned twenty four when everything started, and because
of the lockdowns here in Melbourne, I got stuck in
a job who underpaid me for my workload and responsibility,
and I missed those mid twenty years of socializing, of
learning and growing. So where I'm now is good, but
it's not where I thought i'd be two to three
years ago. It's been really tough wrapping my head around it. Honestly, literally,

(40:07):
this person articulated it so so perfectly. There is so
much hype around not just the progress we should be
making in our twenties and where we should be, but
also some of the more fun things, the more enjoyable
things that kind of set the foundation for future experiences.

(40:27):
You know. Travel is the one that always comes to
my mind, you know, the reason why airfare prices like
jumped like through the roof, especially if you're from Australia.
I feel like if you tried to go anywhere last year,
it was like triple the amount that you would normally expect.
It was kind of like people traveling is like revenge
for when they could travel during COVID and making up

(40:50):
for those lost experiences. Okay, so we spent a lot
of time talking about what contributes to us feeling behind,
But I think regardless of what's causing this sense of stagnation,
you kind of have to find a way to manage it. Right.
Something I believe very deeply in life is that life
is hard enough. You don't need to make yourself feel

(41:12):
any worse for going at your own pace, for going
about things differently, for not meeting some intangible, weird, socially
imposed timeline. I say that very firmly, but I think
knowing it is one thing. Implementing this belief system and
this attitude of nonchalance and going about it your own
way is another. So we're gonna go on a short break,

(41:34):
but when we come back, we're gonna talk through some
tips on how to manage the sense that you are
behind in life and behind in your twenties. One of
the biggest therapeutic interventions in like the mental health psychology
space is cognitive behavioral therapy. You have probably heard about

(41:55):
it before. But the promise is that you can change
your negative emotional reactions to your circumstances by firstly correcting
unhelpful or faulty ways of thinking. It is essentially a
conscious cognitive rewiring, so that instead of thinking the worst
of a situation, instead of predicting that you'll fail, instead

(42:17):
of saying hurtful, hard, mean, self doubting statements to yourself,
instead you reposition. You reposition them, and you reframe them
to be positive. So essentially, the premise is if you
can change how you think about something, you will change
how you react to that thing as well. So, for example,
instead of thinking I'm not where I want to be

(42:39):
that makes me a failure, I'm never going to get
where I want to go, I'm always going to feel behind,
I'm never going to have what that person has, you
instead reframe your perspective as something more positive. For example,
you think about your journey like you are taking the
scenic route. We've mentioned that before. You're not just kind

(43:00):
of like zooming down life's highway. You are not just
like picking up accomplishments and milestones on the way and
not really enjoying them. You are taking the scenic route.
You are, you know, trusting the process. You're stopping for
a swim in the ocean, You're chatting to the locals,
You're picking up special memories that we don't always make
when we're so focused on output, we're so focused on

(43:23):
doing everything perfectly, we're so focused on keeping up with
this imaginary norm. Part of reframing your cognitions towards your
circumstances is also around focusing on the benefits of not
having it all figured out. So this was a contribution
that spoke about this that I loved. I'm twenty four

(43:45):
and I graduated from UNI at twenty two, which is
the average age to graduate in the US. I'd never
left the US, and I've spent the last year and
a half since graduating traveling. Oh my gosh, that's so funny.
Year and a half that's like incredible. Feel well so
behind my friends, though, who graduated and hopped straight into
full time jobs. I've since done seasonal and freelance work,

(44:07):
and I've lived and traveled through seven countries, including Australia.
Oh my gosh, love to hear it, but I still
can't shake the feeling that I'm behind in the material things,
even though I've had incredible personal growth. I've found a
really fulfilling relationship, I've become more confident, self sufficient, and
I've reflected on things that I want in life. It

(44:29):
feels like the US specifically doesn't value traveling for the
sake of travel, which makes me really sad because I've
had so much more growth trying to figure out public
transit and fezas in foreign countries than I ever did
sitting in lecture halls at UNI. Okay, right off the back,
congratulations seven countries. That is an amazing feat. And I

(44:49):
especially like when people come to Australia because I know
it's very far from like everywhere else in the world,
but it is like genuinely the most beautiful country ever.
Obviously I'm a little bit biased, but what really sticks
out to me about this is the fact that you
had this amazing experience traveling right, but you still felt

(45:09):
behind because all of your friends are doing the traditional route,
which is great for them. They went to Union and
they went straight into their jobs. I bet you some
good money that a lot of your friends are looking
at your experience and thinking, damn, I really should have
just taken a couple of years off. I am so
burnt out by work. I really never gave myself a

(45:32):
chance to actually enjoy my free time and to enjoy
some time off. What I'm really speaking about here is
the trade off that we have to make, especially in
our early twenties, where there are so many decisions, there
are so many options, so many choices and different ways
of going about life and going about our future, that

(45:53):
with each choice we make, we do have to lose something.
But with everything that you lose, you also do gain
something in return, just about what it is that you value.
So yes, you might lose that security of having a
job lined up, that stability, but you also gain perhaps
something that is more aligned with what you really value
in life. That could be freedom, that could be flexibility,

(46:14):
that could be excitement and growth. You are never not
gaining something from your experiences, even if it's not what
you expected, even if it's not going according to plan.
I also think that it's important to confront the grass
is Greener philosophy, the grass is greener syndrome. Whilst you're
looking at somebody else's journey, as I said, and feeling
deficient in comparison, they may be looking at yours and

(46:37):
wishing for what you have. Just because your path is
different doesn't mean that it's inferior. Doesn't mean that it's
also not the source of envy for other people. So
I want you to focus on what you have gained
more than what you have lost. Yes, you may have
lost the stability of a full time job straight out
of UNI. Yes you may have lost some of that
financial security that these people had, you know, a quote

(46:59):
unquote head start at. That doesn't mean that their path
is now forever and were going to be easy and
that yours is going to be difficult. People come across
a lot of upsets and setbacks and mistakes and barriers
that will inevitably push all of our paths onto, you know,
a different track than we initially thought. Just because they've

(47:20):
spent the first two years out of the gate, you know,
the first two years after graduation for them seemingly has
gone very smoothly and very according to plan, doesn't mean
that in five years time somebody isn't having an existential
crisis and going, oh my god, I've actually never really
enjoyed a moment of my life, or oh my gosh,
I actually never gave myself the opportunity to really think
about what I wanted. I just really felt the need

(47:41):
to fulfill this career criteria, to have something lined up,
to have a job, to have a sense of purpose
that now I'm finding it hard to connect to, not
to get really existential. But you know, we all end
up in the same place. What's the rush? Do you
want to spence and you're limited time? Wanting to be

(48:02):
further ahead, wanting to have a solid plan and know
exactly what the next five, ten to fifteen years will bring.
There is no room for excitement in that. There is
no room for surprise, there is no room for flexibility.
It's also worth reminding you that if you are in
your twenties, and I'm assuming that you are, you are
just getting started. This is the first decade of many,

(48:26):
many decades and many many seasons and chapters of life.
Think about your life. I've used this analogy before, but
think about it like a TV series, right, It's not
like the first season is all there is and they
just replay the first season again and again for the
next nine seasons. Your life is very much like that.
You're in your early twenties, you're in your twenties. That

(48:47):
is the first season of your TV show. Next season
is going to be completely different, and so was the
season after that, because you are constantly changing and evolving.
Right now, you're in the experimentation phase. You're in the
uncertainty phase. You're in like the confusing chapter. A lot
of people have made this pilgrimage before you. A lot

(49:09):
of people have had this experience. So I want you
to kind of soothe your doubt and soothe your insecurity
through a sense of normalcy and through a sense of
community that you are not alone in this. A couple
weeks back, actually, we had the amazing doctor Meg Jay
on the podcast. You might know that name. She is

(49:29):
a very very famous author. She wrote The Defining Decade.
She is a lecturer. She is a really spectacular psychologist.
And she was telling me about how when she was
in her mid to late twenties, right after university, she
was working as an outward bound instructor. She was literally
spending her days paddling through a swamp, showing like tourists

(49:50):
and you know, people around nature. That is so different
to what she is doing now. And I am sure
that whilst you know, I can't speak for her. But
I'm sure that while she was doing this, she was
watching people she knew go to grad school. She was
watching people she knew win awards and have kids and
set up their own businesses. But the thing is is

(50:12):
that now, at the age she is at, she is
still in a really good place, and I'm sure those
other people are as well. But just because her journey
wasn't exactly the way that it needed to be doesn't
mean that she didn't end up getting to a place
where she was really fulfilled. And another component of that
is that all those experiences that I'm sure she was like, dang,
I really wish I was doing something else. I really

(50:34):
wish that my life had turned out differently, those experiences
are probably really, really valuable now, and they're the kind
of experiences that possibly contribute massively to all of her
incredible ideas and her writing that she may not have
had if she'd taken yet again, the traditional route. There's
nothing wrong with that route, it's just that it's not
the only way to go about it. In terms of

(50:56):
feeling behind in your relationship. I want to talk about
my friend Katie and another guests that we had on
the show. She met her first boyfriend at twenty seven,
almost when she was twenty eight, and now she is
in this wonderful relationship. In the episode that I did
with her, she really speaks quite vulnerably about how difficult
it was to be at that age and feel like

(51:18):
she was missing out on this huge component of a fulfilling,
happy life, which was love. But you know, she took
time to learn herself, she had the experiences with people
that you know, didn't work out. She had time to
make beautiful, fulfilling friendships, to move cities, to do all
those things, and she ended up in this like incredible

(51:42):
relationship with this amazing person. And she said something really profound,
which is that she looks back at it now and
she can appreciate that it was hard, but it really
felt quite worth it. So there's another example. And you know,
because we're in a bit of a role, I'm also
going to include my mom in this as somebody who
you can think of and feel better about yourself. When

(52:03):
she was in her twenties, she literally got kicked out
of like every single course that she did. She failed
her first degree, she was asked to leave by her
old university faculty. She was working at a restaurant for years,
whilst her friends, you know, got scholarships and became doctors
and nurses. But she took her time, and when she

(52:25):
felt ready, she went back to university. She's now a CEO.
She now literally runs a company. She is like an
incredible woman. She raised three daughters, she has like an
army of beautiful, beautiful friends, and she's really successful. And
I'm sure that when she was in that phase where
it wasn't working out, where all she could think was

(52:47):
about her failures and everything that hadn't been a success,
she wouldn't have been able to picture where she is now.
I think we really need to start glamorizing and sharing
the success stories of people who didn't and have it straightforward,
and reminding ourselves that just because it's taking a bit
longer doesn't mean you won't get there eventually. And even

(53:08):
if you don't get to where you imagined you would
be in the time that you wanted to do it,
you can still feel happy in whatever circumstances you find
yourselves in. I want to remind you of just the
resilience of humans and the fact that people find great
joy and great strength and something to live for and
beauty and excitement, even in situations that they never could

(53:32):
have anticipated. So even if it isn't going according to plan,
it doesn't mean that the end result isn't going to
be amazing. There's one final thing I want to say
on this and it's actually a quote and I actually
saw it on Reddit when I was doing some investigating
for this episode, and it was a very well known quote,
which is that youth is wasted on the young. I

(53:54):
think this exact situation we're talking about goes to demonstrate
that quite well. A lot of people who are in
their mid thirties, late thirties now early forties all look
back at their twenties and think, oh my god, why
was I so worried? You know, I think we have
a lot of hype around doing it all in this decade,

(54:15):
but this is when we're making the least amount of money.
We feel very stuck. We're not completely sure of ourselves.
All the experiences that we should be having are wasted
on us because we don't know how to appreciate them.
We don't have the hindsight of knowing that it's all
going to work out. So trust our elders. I guess
trust the people that have come before us, who say

(54:36):
time and time again, don't worry too much, It's all
going to be okay. I feel like when I think
about their experiences and their advice, it always brings me
a real sense of inner peace. So thank you so
much for listening to this episode. If you have made
it this far, please dm me on Instagram and I'm
going to send you a big fat love heart to

(54:56):
say thank you for putting up with my rambling. I
know that this episod it is a little bit different
to what we usually do. I loved being able to
incorporate some of your anecdotes, some of your experiences, and
just be a little bit more fluid with it. I
appreciate you listening this far, and if you did enjoy
this episode, please feel free to give the podcast a

(55:17):
five star review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify wherever you are
listening right now, make sure you're following or you're subscribed
based on what platform you're listening, and share this episode
with a friend who you think might also be feeling
a little bit stuck, feeling a little bit behind. Feel
like a problem shared is a problem halved, and it
probably will make every person in that situation feel a

(55:39):
little bit less alone and take the pressure off, take
the foot off the gas for a little while. So
thank you so much for listening. Until next episode, stay
safe and be kind and we'll talk soon
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