I want to preface that this is an extremely long post (just couldn’t shorten it). However, I genuinely think this has been one of my favourite posts to write so far. I also really feel this is super important to read so if you do have the spare time or this topic interests you, I would really appreciate it.
I present to you my tips for when you feel lost in your career and life in your early 20s.
It is without a doubt that most of us would like to have our lives put together. As we all grow up and navigate early adulthood, it seems like everyone around us has everything figured out. People like to share important milestones, whether that be a promotion at work, relationships, holidays or a weight loss journey. Naturally, all we see is positivity and how fun and exciting life is.
Hence, I often feel alone when I feel lost and down. Whilst people are enjoying romantic getaways for their long term relationships (trust me I’ve seen so many), I’m slamming down cheap tacos and booze on Taco Tuesday. My whole dating life is a shocking mess that seems to result in nothing and I recently did not get promoted at work when pretty much everyone else did. When you feel left out, shit can hurt.
In addition, aside from work/career and dating floundering, something I’ve always wanted to do in my mid-to late 20s is move overseas. I went on a study abroad exchange program when I was 21 (best thing I’ve ever done) and those feelings have only intensified since. The coronavirus pandemic has somewhat been a really good excuse for me to be complacent and content in being stagnant in life. Currently, I’m in a strong sense of routine but for a while, I’ve thought there is nothing for me in Sydney anymore and have strong urges of moving to London.
I want to point out that moving to a new city is so much easier being single. Self reliance honey.
At 23, approaching 24, I’m starting to get a bit of anxiety regarding how my life is panning out and I know that sounds so silly since I’m so young but hear me out.
I’ve always envisaged that I would have a successful and normal life so naturally as I’m getting older, reality sort of kicks in. I’m no longer at university anymore so I feel like I can’t make excuses.
Life can be super overwhelming and the feeling of feeling lost often can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure. It can get you into a dark place.
I’m here to tell you that you’re not a failure and feeling lost is very normal. The most important thing is to be able to pick yourself up and be able to navigate life with all its ups and downs and steer yourself into a positive direction. I strongly agree that adversity allows us to be stronger and it helps us learn and grow.
1 Accept that it’s ok to feel lost and even alone in life
I’m not sure if you are aware but post graduate depression is actually a thing. People graduate with impressive degrees from impressive universities and still struggle getting a job. And it’s not their fault – the graduate job market is so competitive and the process is rigorous.
I was lucky to successfully snag a graduate job so you think I’m one of the lucky ones but that simply isn’t the case. Very quickly did I realise that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing and felt depressed. I had to keep telling myself how fortunate I was to be in this position and that I was here to develop my skills and obtain experience. I had just come back from a graduation trip to America (how I miss travelling) and the sudden change in lifestyle exacerbated by not enjoying my job, feeling incredibly lonely and feeling inadequate and unsuccessful made my mental health take a nosedive.
However, I was not alone in this. I bloody felt it but read this statistic.
According to a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan, 40% of graduates described themselves as feeling ‘socially isolated,’ 44% believed their friends were more successful than they were and 49% said their mental wellbeing deteriorated.
That is a large percentage of people – definitely more than I thought. Post-university life seems like sunshine and daisies but this just is not the case. Post university can be a really daunting chapter of life but challenges like this are completely normal. You’re not alone in this. In fact, more than 40% of people feel the same.
2 Don’t compare yourself to other people – see yourself for who you truly are : a beautiful human being inside and out
Something that I struggle with a lot is a distorted sense of self. It’s probably why I lack success in dating because I come across quite self-deprecating. Whilst, it is a humour I enjoy, I do understand it can translate into ‘she seems like she’s really unsure of herself and has low self-esteem’.
When you feel lost, especially in life but also your career and even dating, you feel inferior. Not getting a work promotion literally made me feel this way because my title was not the same as my peers. I felt a lot of embarrassment and shame and trust me, it can be hard to feel like you’re worthy and capable of doing things.
For me, I try my best to practise gratitude and be appreciative of my life and myself as a person. You need some me time and come back with an energised spirit. Believe in your potential. Think about the positive traits that you have and use these as your strengths. I know it can be hard to hype yourself up but try it.
Trust me – you will enjoy it.
3 Realising that something isn’t going well allows you to reflect and improve
I am a huge believer of self-reflection and the fact that it is okay to underperform. As long as you are able to identify what you did wrong or can improve on to do better next time is an incredibly valuable skill because it enables you to self-reflect.
I often feel lost in my career and sometimes I think that’s so stupid to say because I’m only 23 and that I’m so young and have my whole life to figure things out. Not doing well in your professional life in your early 20s does not mean you’re set for failure. Yes, I feel behind my peers but this reflection has made me realise that this is not the best career for me and whilst you would think that would make me feel even more lost in life, it actually drives a sense of purpose and direction.
People often don’t know I majored in marketing. People also find it weird I didn’t study accounting at university because I work as an accountant. I can definitely see that has been a huge drawback with my performance. From the beginning, it was never an even playing field, I felt inadequate from Day 1 and I often feel a bit out of my depth and lack a lot of confidence in the quality of my work.
I definitely feel more driven to go back into marketing and analytics (I still bloody love data) in future job roles. Whilst, I have literally no work experience with marketing, I am hoping that maybe this blog is a springboard to opportunities. I mean I can dream right? At the moment, I have a lot of motivation to continue working hard on this blog.
Reflection, good or bad, reminds me of the push off the wall you do when you swim (I love swimming so this analogy came naturally to me). The only direction you can go is forward.
4 You have more control than you think – don’t take the back seat in life
I think when we feel lost, we also feel quite powerless and defeated and we often feel like a victim. However, to a certain extent, it is our thoughts that have made us feel that way. Also always seeing yourself as the victim is extremely unhealthy. I understand that it’s a coping mechanism and yes, I’ve done this too but if you consistently avoid your problems and shift responsibility and blame away from yourself and don’t become proactive and take control and seek to better yourself, then I’m sorry because that is the reason you’re not doing well in life.
As we can all see with the pandemic, there are some things that we can not control. We need to accept that but also take back that right of feeling in control of our decisions and emotions. Feel inspired to take charge.
I know changing a mindset is difficult but if we focus on what we can do, that will help us navigate to a brighter place and bring happiness.
5 Keep striving to do better
I mentioned that changing your mindset is difficult and trust me, I know how hard it is to keep moving forward. When you’re so down and lost, you start questioning what is the point. What even is the point in trying?
However, as I said before, it is so important to be able to take control of your action because sometimes, things aren’t just magically going to heal. Striving to do better is something you can do so do it. Even if it doesn’t always go well, you can congratulate yourself because you know you put the effort in and gave it a go and that’s just beautiful.
6 Time is precious so don’t dwell on it – the present and future are right in front of you
My mum used to always tell me that there are 24 hours in a day. Never any more. So try to spend those 24 hours and every other day in the best way you possibly can.
You should never try and waste time because an opportunity can pass you by and you will miss it.
Recently, I’ve been getting out of time-wasting habits (Instagram in particular) and it’s given me so much more extra time in my day. If you’re struggling in regards to being more productive with your time, set up goals that you want to achieve. This will help you regain focus and drive and hopefully make you feel a little less lost in life.
7 Push out of your comfort zone
As mentioned previously, time is of the essence. People who feel lost tend to stay in their comfort zones and trust me, I feel the same. That bubble is really comfortable but it can also be a reason why you feel stuck. Whilst feeling lost in my early 20s feels scary, I also don’t just want to cruise through life. I find that boring and extremely depressing. I don’t want to be complacent with being stagnant in life.
Now is the best time to push yourself and grow. When I push my limits, life can feel exciting and beautiful again.
8 Journal and document your thoughts
My blog is essentially a big journal for me. Writing this post has been really beneficial for me as it has allowed me to reflect but also propose strategies for when I’m feeling lost in future.
It’s a great way to get your thoughts out from your mind to paper and track your progress. The best thing about journaling is you don’t even have to share with anyone. I find it really therapeutic to jot down frustrating preoccupying thoughts.
An emotion or mood journal is a fantastic idea. This would be really helpful and getting a better understanding of yourself. You will be able to identify what causes you to feel a particular emotion and how you responded to that.
Get creative with it. I found some amazing examples on Pinterest that may inspire you. They definitely have inspired me.
I’ve chosen these examples because they’re all really different.
1 My Ideal Life (click for Pinterest)- When you feel lost in life, I think it’s really important to set goals. What do you want to achieve? What is your ideal life? This will allow you to regain focus and passion. Have a mixture of short-term and long-term goals. It will make it a lot easier to accomplish things ( + we love the feeling of accomplishment).
2 Worry Tree (click for Pinterest)- This will help identify emotions that trigger you and help you guide your emotions in a healthy way to deal with difficulties you face. Something I have struggled in the past is dwelling on regret and the past. If there is a hypothetical situation that you can’t do anything (i.e. in the past), let go and shift your attention to your present.
3 Mood Tracker (click for Pinterest) – There are so many creative ones on Pinterest for inspiration. I chose this one because it was quite simplistic yet really pretty but also really easy to identify patterns in mood.
9 Don’t be ashamed for seeking help – you’re not in this alone
Asking for help should never been seen as a weakness. Rather, it should be appreciated because it shows you are being proactive in finding solutions for your problem. I know asking for help can be quite stigmatised – especially when it comes to mental health but I am glad I’ve been able to seek help in the workplace.
Firstly – the feelings of feeling unvalued and unappreciated in a work environment are not ok- since they’re so normalised to me, my feelings can be quite internalised which only makes me feel more alone. You shouldn’t continue to feel this way so the fact that people high up in the corporate ladder agreed with my sentiment made me feel very welcome.
Secondly – asking for help allows you to see a different perspective and it really shone light that perhaps that this isn’t what I want in life and that’s ok. It sounds counter-initiutive but honestly any experience, good or bad, allows you to grow and develop professionally and personally. The lady I was talking to was telling me she was now in her 30s, changing job titles and still not sure of what she wanted to do and you know what? That’s actually ok.
I think getting a new perspective and insight is really valuable. It makes you not feel alone. In addition, these people want to provide solutions for you- they want to help you. Everyone is playing on the same team.
10 Remember, everything happens for a reason. This is your blessing in disguise.
Life is hard and it definitely has it ups and downs. Things may not work out right now but they will in the end.
As I was writing this, a song I was listening to resonated with this sentiment.
If there is only one thing you take from this post, it is that everything happens for a reason and what may seem really negative at this very moment may end up being a blessing in disguise.
Also I love Kali Uchis.
Take the lyrics from After the Storm (feat. Tyler the Creator, Bootsy Collins).
So if you need a hero (if you need a hero)
Just look in the mirror (just look in the mirror)
No one’s gonna save you now
So you better save yourself
And everybody’s hurting
Everybody’s going through it
But you just can’t give up now
‘Cause you gotta save yourself
Yeah, gotta hang on, baby
We need to look at ourselves with positivity. Kali Uchis actually explains this is a power stance to make us feel more confident. Think of yourself as a hero and the bad bitch that you want to be. Everyone is going through life in their own individual way so sometimes it is up to us to do things for ourselves. You just can’t give up now because whilst you may feel lost right now, things are going to get better so hang on.
The sun’ll come out
Nothing good ever comes easy
I know times are rough
But winners don’t quit
So don’t you give up
The sun’ll come out
But we’ve been struggling endless days
Someday we’ll find the love
‘Cause after the storm’s
When the flowers bloom
Kali Uchis says that things you work for will always resolve for the better in the end and hard work will pay off. After all, nothing good ever comes easy. Like I mentioned before, even your darkest moments and the feeling of feeling lost in your early 20s can actually be a blessing in disguise. Everyone has rough patches in life, even you and me. A setback can be extremely difficult so I know how you feel.
I also want to point out the name of Kali Uchis’s album is literally called Isolation. It revolves around the power of solitude. After the Storm as well as many of her other songs centres around personal growth and hard-work and confidence.
I recently wrote a post where I talk about how isolation and solitude can empower me especially when it comes to dating and the feelings of rejection and ghosting (click here to read). I also really liked writing this one as well.
But remember that after the storm, the flowers bloom. A rough patch will go away and you will have more direction and control with your life.
Life is meant to have these challenges and roadblocks but when you get over it, it will make you a better and stronger person in the end.
Currently Listening to
Photography: Taken in Budapest, Hungary 2019