We’re all still adjusting to new habits and resolutions as we get further into 2018. These may be as doable as packing lunch every morning or ditching nicotine, while others may include saving towards a big purchase like a car or your postgraduate degree. We tend to be our own worst critics, so it’s easy to push ourselves so hard that burnout reaches levels that can keep us warm during winter. This is worsened by what I’ve dubbed ‘success FOMO’ – wanting it all right now. It’s time to go easy on yourself (but not too easy).
It’s about knowing the fine line between discipline and regimentation. Pushing yourself too hard to do the most isn’t good for your mental health, but being too lax can be just as dangerous. So how do we beat success FOMO and find balance? First we need to decipher what causes this success FOMO.
The beginning of the year is a bit like the day Goldilocks broke into the three bears’ house. Goldilocks steps into unfamiliar territory and immediately sets out to find the bowl of porridge that’s ‘just right’ for her. Much like Goldilocks, people tend to choose January to move to new cities, look for apartments to rent, start a new job, enrol for new courses or join a gym – all of which require discernment as we try to get our choices ‘just right’.
In an analysis for Forbes, Sarah Ware pinpointed five triggers of what she coined the ‘Goldilocks Syndrome’. Women are expected to find balance in their personal choices, but in the male-dominated world of business they are also judged for being ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’ in their attitudes, emotions, approach to motherhood, how frequently they speak out, and how strongly they express their opinions.
‘As a woman, you’re never going to get to the top if you’re too busy wondering whether or not your porridge is too hot or too cold. Yet, no matter how high you get, you’ll never run out of people happy to take its temperature for you.’ Women have to navigate a plethora of internal conflicts in order to become successful, and their choices are often unfairly judged.
Double-tapping doubles the pressure
As if constantly trying to juggle hot and cold porridge isn’t a handful already, women who are active on social media are also exposed to other people’s success on an almost daily basis. While you may not be envious of what you’re seeing and liking, it could make you start to feel unaccomplished by comparison.
As we know, social media only shows the edited parts of people’s lives, and it can be really bad for your mental health. Although that may be true, it doesn’t mean the parts we do reveal are fiction, and that’s where the pressure stems from – seeing the best parts (that are you yet to reach) of other people’s lives.
Vogue reported last year that ‘Instagram was found to have the “most detrimental” effect on young people’ and that it ‘fuels a pervasive sense of FOMO’ even when you have your own milestones to celebrate.
So even if you had only planned to own property in five years’ time and are currently managing to pay rent every month, bumping into a post celebrating a friend’s purchase of a new home may trigger you into feeling the need to own property sooner than you initially planned. You fail to recognise that it may have also taken your fellow IGer five years to do so.
The lesson is that comparison isn’t the healthiest approach to self-motivation.
Experts suggest you unfollow
Author of Unfollow: Living Life On Your Own Terms, Dr Linda Papadopoulos answers a series of questions from women in their twenties who feel pressured to achieve it all.
Her opening line in the first chapter reads, ‘ Dear 20-something; Being in your twenties will be in equal measure exhilarating and daunting, liberating and constraining, effortless and complicated.’ The life of a 20-something is seldom monotonous, whether things are going well or not.
On ‘having it all’, Papadopoulos says we need to reconsider what this actually means. She urges young women not to be idealistic about ‘having it all’, but rather to assess our own personal priorities – ‘What’s important to me right now at this time in my life?’
Bonang’s ‘having it all’ is completely different to the woman who wants marriage, 2.4 kids, a dog and a white picket fence before age 30. Both are valid vision boards, but if two of the things you’ve envisioned for yourself only happen at age 32, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
Dr Papadopoulos therefore rejects the ‘should be’ pressure imposed on women in their 20s in mainstream media and on social media. She suggests that you log off, mute or simply unfollow if you need to. In doing so, you’ll be able to see your own vision clearer without being distracted by other people in their own lanes. So create your own vision board, and edit it as you see fit.
Now about those resolutions…
You have 11 and a half months to work through your ‘to do’ list, and beat your success FOMO. Many people have declared that they’re reclaiming 2018 as their year after 2016 and 2016 Season 2 (2017), so this is a year of big expectations. But don’t be too hard on yourself because You. Will. Burn. Out.
You can always reconstruct your list of New Year’s resolutions – if eating more home-cooked meals is easier to achieve now than quitting cigarettes, then move ‘quit smoking’ to a slightly lower rank on your list. If your side-hustle is starting to drain your 9-5 energy, then consider freelancing seasonally rather than throughout the year.
Most importantly, prioritise and ask yourself why certain goals matter so much to you.