Why Navigating Your Twenties is Harder Than it Looks…

As a young professional in her mid-twenties, LUX WMN writer Hannah, talks about the pressure of feeling like you need to have everything figured out in your twenties and attempting to balance life, work, social media pressures and navigating the world of adulthood.
07 September 2023

The panic years, coined by author Nell Frizzell as something that is “most commonly triggered somewhere between the ages of twenty-five and forty”, is not a new phenomenon. I tell myself that this decade will truly be unlike any other as I have the freedom to go & do as I please, date, discover myself and be adventurous with my career path because I’m young, single and childless!

When I word it like that, being in your twenties sounds pretty damn awesome, but as with everything, it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine…

A quick 30 second scroll on social media greets me with the overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame that I’m not where I should be at my age and that I’m somehow failing compared to those online. I’m not travelling the world while simultaneously investing at least 20% of my salary. I might not have plans on Friday night even though the rest of Instagram stories seemingly does. I’m not on the property ladder and I’m not in a long term relationship planning a marriage and family…exhausting right?

If I complain about the stress of being in my twenties, I’m often met with “you’re only in your twenties once so you should enjoy it!”, but if I enjoy it too much, I hear, “your thirties are just around the corner so perhaps you should think about planning for your future more”…it’s pretty much a lose/lose.

Navigating your twenties isn’t supposed to be easy, at least I don’t think it is, but with the addition of social media & hustle culture, there is a constant pressure to keep going because if you stop, you’re not progressing or growing which means you’re failing. We spend hours comparing our lives and our achievements to those that we see on social media platforms, which are filled with billions of other people’s opinions and experiences – none of which are the same as yours.

Hustle Culture

The hustle culture narrative has been present on different social media platforms for quite some time. It promotes the idea that there is always something more to be striving for – whether that is more money, a bigger title or a promotion. While it could be seen as motivating or a way for one to push themselves, it also hugely stresses the notion of overworking on purpose, and showing off about doing so, which can ultimately have negative effects on workers’ mental and physical health.

Danielle Haig, principle psychologist at DH Consulting, says that this narrative faced an enormous spike, “with the rise of LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, the hustle culture idea exploded.” Haig continued, saying that “it was then able to feed off people’s insecurities about what they don’t have and what they’re not doing.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant shift in people’s acceptance to this mindset, with the majority of workers prioritising a healthier work/life balance. The impact of the pandemic meant that we were able to re-evaluate how we prioritised our work, shifting more of the focus on being with our loved ones. The addition of home working also played an enormous role in reducing and diminishing the trend as employees were able to see they had greater control over their hours and routines. The shift meant that employees started to recognise that yes, they wanted that promotion but they also wanted to spend important time with their families.

Working long hours and a staggering work load was once the status symbol many seeked, but jump to today where we are facing economic hardships following on from the likes of the pandemic and the Ukraine/Russia crisis, more people seem to be putting their health and family above the hustle.

Prioritise Happiness

Happiness presents itself in many forms and I think we often get so caught up in trying to get so much done in our professional lives and keep up with the trends, our friends and our families that we don’t take a step back and ask ourselves what actually makes us happy. If we do this, often the overarching guilt kicks in and makes us think that we could be doing something better or more productive. 

Whether it’s baking your favourite cupcakes, drawing, binge watching your favourite TV show or even a sweaty gym session – if that’s what makes you happy you should make time for it. Just like you schedule appointments and meetings, schedule in time for you! It may feel strange at first but putting in the effort to block off that time often means that you’re more likely to actually do it and not push it to the side.

 Filling Up Your Cup

So if we prioritise happiness, how do we “fill up our cup?”…

By definition, to fill your cup means that you are replenishing the stores of mental, emotional and physical energy. It means that you need to stop and recharge your batteries. Oftentimes it’s with just small ways here and there but as you take the time to nurture yourself, you are able to ease burnout and exhaustion.

Taking out time for yourself is not something that should be seen as a luxury or a “treat”, it’s essential to self care. Being diligent with yourself about what you say “yes” to will help manage the expectations others have around you as well as yourself and it’s also important to give yourself permission to say “no thank you” to things that deplete or have a significant negative impact on you. 

Find what makes you feel at peace and make those small moments count. If you need to, turn off your phone or place it somewhere you aren’t able to access it for a certain period of time. Investing in yourself by prioritising movement and a healthy diet will also help boost your mood and aid in balancing the stressful times in life or work.

No matter what phase of life you are in, it can all feel pretty daunting. Being in your twenties is the decade where you will face the most amount of rejection – whether that is through work, relationships or even family. It’s not meant to be easy but it’s not meant to be over-consuming. Stepping away from the perfection that is portrayed on social media of course helps but it’s also important to implement ways of de-stressing and managing your responsibilities and not falling into the idea of spending so much time chasing instead of enjoying your twenties!